Saturday, September 10, 2011
Instant analysis: Alabama 27, Penn State 11
By Adam Rittenberg
Some quick thoughts from Beaver Stadium, where No. 3 Alabama outclassed No. 23 Penn State in a convincing victory.
How the game was won: Alabama established its offensive identity -- behind quarterback AJ McCarron -- and capitalized against a Penn State team that has none. The Tide defense buckled down after the opening drive and never let Penn State quarterbacks Rob Bolden and Matt McGloin truly get comfortable. Nick Saban's squad made the big plays in all three phases and limited major mistakes on the road. Alabama also converted two Penn State turnovers into touchdowns and committed no giveaways of its own. McCarron showed tremendous poise in his first career road start and led four sustained scoring drives against a Penn State defense that played well for the most part.
Turning point: An Andrew Szczerba fumble in the second quarter negated a chance for Penn State to grab momentum, but the Nittany Lions still had chances to put up points after forcing back-to-back three-and-outs to begin the second half. Given great field position, Penn State couldn't convert for points and wasted chances to make the game competitive.
Player of the game: Alabama's McCarron. The sophomore avoided major miscues and made several big throws at critical points. He finished the game 19-for-31 passing for 163 yards and a touchdown with no interceptions. Running back Trent Richardson also had a nice performance (109 rush yards, 2 TDs).
Stat of the game: Penn State's quarterbacks combined to complete 12 of 39 passes for 144 yards with no touchdowns and an interception (Bolden ran in a two-point conversion). The Lions' signal callers have yet to toss a touchdown pass this season, and Penn State nearly was held out of the end zone in its past two games against Alabama. The Lions have dropped eight consecutive games against AP top-5 opponents.
Second guessing: Penn State's decision to continue rotating Bolden and McGloin remains mystifying. Any mistake from Bolden seemingly sends him to the bench, even though he has displayed more upside than McGloin. While McGloin provided a spark late last season, his limitations show in games like these. You can't expect to beat a team like Alabama with a quarterback rotation. Bolden should be the guy.
What it means: Alabama leaves Happy Valley feeling good about its ability to contend for a national title. McCarron displayed tremendous poise in a tough road environment, which will help him in the SEC. The Tide thoroughly outclassed a Big Ten team for the second time in nine months (Michigan State, 2011 Capital One Bowl). Penn State didn't figure out its quarterback situation in the preseason and paid the price Saturday. The Lions boast a much improved defense, particularly up front, but they need to start scoring points themselves if they expect to beat the better teams in the Big Ten.