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Penn State Football: Fair or Not, Bolden Stands out in Loss

by on October 11, 2010 9:31 AM

About 100 of his teammates stood nearby on the sideline in the closing minutes of Saturday's game, but Rob Bolden was alone.

More than 100,000 fans continued to cheer on the Lions, now under the direction of backup Kevin Newsome, but Bolden seemed deaf to it.

It's impossible to know what was running through the freshman QB's mind after his first home loss (he isn't permitted to speak with the media), but his body language was a novel.

He sat on a table placed halfway between the sideline and and seats, behind his teammates. He was hunched forward, his sagging shoulders visible beneath large pads. Undisturbed by other players, he quietly stared at the clock as it winded down, accompanied by the 13-33 score.

It's not fair for Bolden to have such a heavy weight on his shoulders. He's still just a kid, and every position on both sides of the ball underperformed against the underdog Illini.

But he knows what everyone knows about quarterbacks: "Fair" isn't an option.

The quarterback is supposed to be the natural leader, the field operation's general. If need be, he will put the team on his back and carry it into the end zone. And if the team fails, he fails. He's the face of the team.

And now, that team's face has a look of despair.


At the beginning of every season (since 2004), plenty of predictions regarding the Nittany Lions have always been for a one- or two-loss season. Three losses were reserved for an especially bad year.

This year was no different. The Lions would lose to Alabama, Ohio State and perhaps Iowa, but would otherwise run the table.

Michigan and Michigan State, they might put up a fight, but it wouldn't be enough.

Temple and Illinois? No chance.

Yet now it seems Penn State can't beat anybody. Michigan, Ohio State and Michigan State are all set to be living nightmares. Indiana never looked so inviting.

So what's a team to do?

Some players said Saturday that practices weren't hard enough or that players weren't practicing hard enough. Others said it's a lack of intensity taking over the team. Joe Paterno took the blame. Few took the easy route by blaming injuries on both sides of the ball (but especially on defense).

Jay Paterno made it clear after the game that an 0-2 conference record was unacceptable, and changes will be made.

"We've got to evaluate who wants to compete."

Does that include Bolden?

"We're going to look at the whole tape and go from there."

Paterno defended his young QB when it came to his intercepted pass that quickly became an Illinois touchdown.

Though he said Bolden could have lifted the pass a little more, the defender deserved the credit for that play.

"That's really the difference between where they're at and where we're at. They make that play; we don't. We get the ball inside the 10-yard line and we don't make plays."

No matter what happens this bye week, it's likely that both offense and defense will be shaken up. It's unlikely that Bolden or running back Evan Royster will be giving up their starting spots, but coaches and players said nobody is safe in practice this week.

"We'll find out who really wants to step up and play," Royster said Saturday.

"This isn't where any of us wanted to be."


The clock reached all zeros, and Illinois players rushed to celebrate with their teammates. Some ran to the fans in the northeast corner of the stadium.

Some of the Lions took off immediately for the locker room. Others consoled one another on the sideline.

Bolden took a deep breath before slowly stepping down from his makeshift seat. He looked once more at the clock, then started a light jog toward his teammates. He hadn't said a word to any of them.

It was a moment that echoed in Jay Paterno's comment after the game:

"It's probably a good time for an open week for us."

Earlier coverage

Terry Casey is a former managing editor of He can be reached at [email protected]
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