Fans turn on Bolden
UNIVERSITY PARK - The crowd at Beaver Stadium expressed its displeasure with quarterback Rob Bolden by booing him loudly on several occasions Saturday.
Booing is common in sports, even at the collegiate level, but it's tough to recall a Penn State player getting booed that much by the home fans. Quarterbacks coach Jay Paterno took exception to it.
"If they want to boo me, that's fine, I get paid," he said. "But they shouldn't boo kids. In fairness to Rob, he got hit on three or four throws, so you can't really - they shouldn't be booing him. Boo me, fine."
Bolden didn't start but played almost the entire second quarter, and he had a very rough day. He was 0-for-4 passing and seemed unaware of the pressure as he got drilled a few times on incompletions, drawing boos each time.
Bolden took the field with the offense with 2:50 left in the half and heard more boos before taking a snap. On his third play of the series, he fumbled a shotgun snap, Illinois recovered, the boos started up again and Bolden was done for the day.
"That's rough; I've been there," quarterback Matt McGloin said of the boos.
Asked if he said anything to his teammate and quarterback competitor, McGloin replied, "I tried to stay away from him in that type of situation. If it were me, I wouldn't want anybody talking to me about it."
Jay Paterno said he didn't discuss the booing with Bolden during the game.
"No, I didn't talk to him about people booing because we don't listen to those things. We can't worry about them," JayPa said. "But I talked to him afterwards and I said, 'Hey, you were going the right place, you made the right reads and you got hit on the throw, there's nothing you can do about it.' ... He was fine in the locker room afterwards."
Help from the student section
A neat scene played out in the student section when Illinois' Derek Dimke lined up to attempt a tying 42-yard field goal in the final seconds. The students all put on a shift, with those on the outskirts of the section moving toward the middle to try and disrupt Dimke with their sea of white shirts.
Maybe it made a difference, maybe it didn't on Dimke's miss, but the PSU players noticed the shift, and they appreciate it.
"I tweeted earlier today that it's the best student section in football just because of stuff like that, and who knows, they might have even influenced it," offensive lineman Chima Okoli said.
McGloin said. "You have to give a ton of credit to the student section on that one. They made a great adjustment there. ... I don't know if they affected the kicker or not, but they did a great job."
With several inches of snow blanketing the field and the stands at Beaver Stadium before the game, several in attendance took the opportunity to throw snowballs onto the field. By halftime, the South end of the field was littered with them.
"It's very disappointing. Certainly, there's no place for that. I wish that it wouldn't have happened,'' Penn State athletic director Tim Curley said.
The student section has been relocated in the South end zone this year.
While it seemed like the officials might have been the primary target, the snowballs didn't discriminate. One fan posted on BlueWhite Illustrated's message board that he was hit by a "battery snowball." Others connected with the cheerleaders and the support staff on the sidelines, and one flew near Illinois field goal attempt to tie the game on the last play.
Nittany Lion cornerback D'Anton Lynn was hit by one late in the second quarter.
Linebacker Nate Stupar and safety Nick Sukay both appeared to gesture toward the crowd to stop. Curley said warning would have to be given before penalties were assessed, but Stupar said he heard the officials talking about it.
"We had no control over that, but if they continued to do it, we could have gotten a 15-yard penalty,'' Stupar said. "I just asked them to stop. We have to be responsible.''
Curley wasn't willing to overlook it as just boisterous fans being boisterous fans.
"We're going to work hard to try to make sure that the people that come to the game understand that the people on the field need to be protected. It's just not appropriate,'' Curley said.
Freshman Bars has big blocked punt
Brad Bars, a redshirt freshman defensive end from Nashville, came up with a big play early in the fourth quarter when he blocked a punt, which led to a Penn State field goal that made it 7-3.
"We knew that the offense needed a spark, and we just tried to provide that for them," Bars said.
The punt return unit came close to blocking a kick by Illinois' Justin DuVernois in the first half and figured it could get one at some point.
"Yeah, we actually called it a few times," Bars said. "We were like, 'Give us a block, give us a block' because we felt like we could get there."
Bars, who also plays on kickoff return and sometimes on kickoffs, said he wants to prove to the coaches "that they can trust me on special teams before they get me out there on the defensive side."
Illini offense struggles again
Illinois has scored a total of 28 points in its last three games, dropping all three to Ohio State, Purdue and now PSU.
"I don't know what is going on," receiver A.J. Jenkins said of his team's struggling offense. "I was frustrated because we have the weapons and the right schemes."
The Illini managed to get things going on the ground in the second half and finished with 192 yards rushing. Tailback Jason Ford had 100 yards on 24 carries, while quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase had 89 yards on 14 carries.
Illinois didn't try to throw much for most of the game, and Scheelhaase finished 9-of-16 for 63 yards. Jenkins, one of the top receivers in the nation with 62 catches for 987 yards coming in, had six catches for 43 yards.
Just like Penn State, defense kept Illinois in the game. The Illini entered the day ranked 10th in the nation in total defense, allowing 289 yards per game, and they did even better than that as they held the Lions to 209. Linebacker Jonathan Brown had 11 tackles, 2 1/2 tackles for loss and one sack, while standout defensive end Whitney Mercilus had 1 1/2 sacks and six tackles.
"When you give it your all and you know that your teammates gave it their all, it hurts more," defensive back Terry Hawthorne said of the loss.
News and notes
FB Joe Suhey (shoulder injury) dressed but didn't play. ... Backup CB Stephon Morris played sparingly after missing last week's game at Northwestern. Morris had missed practice time that week for undisclosed reasons. ... RB Brandon Beachum backed up Silas Redd but gained only 1 yard on two carries. Neither Curtis Dukes nor Stephfon Green got a carry. ... Former PSU players Stefen Wisniewski and Ki-Jana Carter were among those on hand for the game.
(Compiled by Cory Giger)