September 6, 2011 10:37:00 AM
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- The respected head coach couldn''t decide between two players after the preseason-long race for the quarterback job, then played both candidates in a season-opening romp.
University of Alabama''s Nick Saban and Penn State''s Joe Paterno followed the same script in Week 1. Now they need to start figuring out what the other guy plans to do at quarterback when the second-ranked Crimson Tide head to Happy Valley next week in a marquee matchup between two of college football''s name-brand programs.
Not surprisingly, both coaches are playing it coy ahead of the Sept. 10 showdown at Beaver Stadium.
At Penn State, Paterno said both sophomore Rob Bolden and junior Matt McGloin will share time again. JoePa''s son and quarterbacks coach, Jay Paterno, said the derby will be evaluated week-to-week, but that the Nittany Lions feel "we''ve got two guys we can win with."
Bolden started the 41-7 win Saturday against FCS school Indiana State, going 6 of 12 passing for 37 yards. McGloin entered the second quarter, going 6 of 8 passing for 77 yards.
They split time in the third quarter, then Bolden and McGloin headed to the bench for good in the fourth with the game well in hand.
Better get them rested up for the rest of the tough schedule.
"Alabama next week is going to be a physical football game. ... our conference is physical," Jay Paterno said. "You better have two guys ready."
Sounds like what''s going on down in Tuscaloosa, Ala.
Sophomore AJ McCarron started and was 14 of 23 passing for 226 yards, with two interceptions and a 24-yard touchdown to Marquis Maze in the 48-7 victory against Kent State. Redshirt freshman Philip Sims was 7 of 14 for 73 yards and also threw two interceptions.
Neither player would be yanked for making a mistake, Saban said before the game. Statistically, McCarron appeared to separate himself from Sims -- though Saban didn''t name either quarterback his permanent starter afterward.
"Right now, we feel confident no matter which quarterback is in," right guard Barrett Jones said. "It''s not really something that we have to really change anything for. We run the same system with both of them."
Saban didn''t sound that upset about the interceptions, which he hoped would turn into key lessons for his young signal-callers. They could come in handy against a veteran Penn State secondary featuring four senior starters.
"AJ having a little more poise, having played a little bit more, probably played with a little more poise today, but we have a lot of confidence in Philip and in most cases he plays extremely well," Saban said. "I think he learned a lot out there today and I think he will be a very good player for us here."
Back in Happy Valley, both Bolden and McGloin still have lessons to learn, too.
Bolden could have accumulated more yards, though a couple well-placed throws to covered targets bounced off his receivers'' hands each time. Displaying more mobility than McGloin, Bolden also had a tendency to dive head-first for extra yardage outside the pocket.
The art of sliding feet-first will come up at position meetings this week.
"You want a guy who wants to compete, who wants to try to get the extra yards," Jay Paterno said. But "you''ve got to know when to hold them and know when to fold them ... at any rate, he''ll figure it out.
The offense seemed to operate a little smoother under McGloin, especially in a 14-point second quarter. But McGloin also nearly tossed an interception after trying to throw a pass away while under pressure up the middle.
Which brings up the other main problem from Saturday''s otherwise easy season-opening win -- the offensive line struggled with pass protection, especially considering the foe was a lower-division school. Left tackle Quinn Barham placed part of the responsibility on the quarterbacks recognizing defensive fronts and stunts.
"It was kind of frustrating," Bolden said about the pass rush, "but we''ll look at the tape and get better so we don''t those problems next week."