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Penn State Starts Slow and Finishes Fast Against Youngstown State

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Penn State started slow in their opening game but finished fast as they blew out the Youngstown State Penguins at Beaver Stadium 44-14. Freshman Quarterback Robert Bolden was impressive in his debut for the Nittany Lions. Bolden threw two touchdown passes and ended up with 239 passing yards.

Here's the complete story on the Lions opening day victory:

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) - Joe Paterno's decision paid off.

After beating out two sophomores in a spirited preseasoncompetition for the starting quarterback job, true freshman RobBolden rewarded his Hall of Fame coach's confidence Saturday with239 yards passing and two touchdowns in No. 19 Penn State's 44-14rout of FCS school Youngstown State.

It was a promising debut for an 18-year-old making the firststart in a season opener for a true freshman quarterback inPaterno's 45 years as head coach.

"He has got an arm, he's got a little poise, he did some thingsa little better than the other guys on more occasions," Paternosaid. "There are days I came off the field not knowing who Iwanted to play."

It sure seems like Bolden has earned a start for next week'sshowdown at top-ranked Alabama.

Not so fast, Paterno said.

"We're going to play it week by week, practice by practice andhopefully come up with different situations, and we'll go fromthere," said Paterno, seemingly exasperated at times by anymention of the quarterback competition. "Whether that means we'llhave one quarterback all year, or three alternating, or what, Ireally don't know right now."

Bolden finished 20 of 29 passing with one interception - andthat came after receiver Derek Moye slipped to the turf on hisroute. Brett Brackett caught both of Bolden's TD passes andfinished with career highs of eight catches for 98 yards, whileChaz Powell had a 100-yard kickoff return for a score to open adecisive second half.

Youngstown State's own new quarterback, redshirt freshman KurtHess, was impressive, too, going 21 of 25 passing for 189 yards andtwo scores. One of those was off a screen to receiver DominiqueBarnes that turned into an 80-yard score to give the Penguins afour-point lead late in the first quarter.

"It sent a message that we were here to play," said YoungstownState's Eric Wolford, who lost his head-coaching debut. "Wepracticed good all week and we believed we could win the footballgame and we had the plays."

But Bolden settled in on offense, the defense settled down andPenn State overwhelmed the Penguins with too much talent.

"Obviously we're disappointed. We had our opportunities anddidn't step up to the plate like we were supposed to," Wolfordsaid.

Nearly everyone after the game was asked about the newquarterback - except for Bolden himself. Penn State typicallydoesn't allow true freshman to talk to reporters, and with Paternotrying to limit pressure on Bolden, it's unlikely he'll be makingthe media rounds any time soon.

"He showed above and beyond what was expected with his poiseand confidence," said Brackett, the 6-foot-6 senior captain whoproved to be Bolden's favorite target.

With Penn State trailing 7-6, Bolden hit Derek Moye on athird-and-10 for a 27-yard gain to the Penguins 41. Six playslater, Brackett caught a strong throw over the middle at the 1,eluded the grasp of safety Andre Elliott and burst into the endzone for a 20-yard TD pass.

Unsettled early after missed tackles by the defense and a slowstart for the offensive line, the blue and white-clad fans atBeaver Stadium breathed a collective sigh of relief.

It only got better from there for the Nittany Lions.

Collin Wagner kicked a 48-yard field goal - one of threefirst-half field goals of over 40 yards - to close the first half.Powell opened the second with his 100-yard kickoff return dash tothe end zone to make it 23-7. Youngstown State challenged, but theplay was upheld after a review.

Derrick Thomas leveled Youngstown State's Jamaine Cook at the 23on the ensuing kickoff, a big hit that may have sparked a PennState defense that appeared to be sleepwalking at times early on.The Penguins went three and out on their next drive, capped byChris Colasanti's big hit on a short pass over the middle to AdarisBellamy on third down.

Bolden then hit Brackett again on the next drive on a pretty22-yard TD pass down the right sideline for a 30-7 lead with 8:56in the third - and the Nittany Lions were well on their way to aseason-opening rout.

Paterno's son and quarterback coach Jay Paterno said Bolden'spoise and maturity in camp helped set him apart. He hinted thatBolden should go into practice next week as the starter.

"Monday and Tuesday they're going to compete, and he'll runwith the (first team) I imagine. ... There's no reason for him notto based on what we've seen," Jay Paterno said. "But we're stillgoing to compete every week.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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