In many ways, Penn State's quarterback competition between Matthew McGloin and Rob Bolden currently resembles the dying episodes of a hit TV series. The plot is stale, the twists have already been revealed, and at this point, the audience just wants the final credits to roll.
The odds of a resolution this week, however, seem remote, as Joe Paterno chose not to commit to either quarterback after Penn State's 41-7 win against Indiana State at Beaver Stadium on Saturday.
"I think both of them are going to play," Paterno told reporters after the game. "Both of them can play, and I think they will. I wouldn't go overboard one way or the other after today."
With that, Penn State prepares for its first major test of 2011, a tangle with No. 2-ranked Alabama on Saturday in Happy Valley, without a set starting quarterback. That, of course, could change over the course of the week, but right now, Paterno seems set on seeing what each quarterback has against the Crimson Tide.
Statistically, Bolden had a poor day against the Sycamores, completing just six of 12 passes for 37 yards, but Paterno was quick to note his receivers dropped a couple of nice deep balls that could have made his day look much better on the stat sheet. Here's some video of Bolden's comments on his effort after the game.
The sophomore got the start against Alabama in Tuscaloosa last season, completing 13 of 29 passes for 144 yards and two interceptions. It'll be interesting to see if that experience plays into Paterno's decision about who will start and who will get a majority of the snaps.
McGloin had the better stat line of the two, completing six of eight passes for 77 yards, including a long of 29 to wide receiver Derek Moye. He almost committed a costly error in the second quarter, however, when he tossed a pass into the chest of a charging defensive lineman while under pressure. The defender dropped the ball, but the scene harkened back to some of McGloin's poor decision-making last season when he threw nine interceptions in just seven games.
As McGloin notes in the video below, though, taking away a garbage possession at the end of the first half, Penn State scored touchdowns on three of McGloin's four possessions on Saturday while the Lions scored on just one of Bolden's six possessions under center. Keep an eye on how that factors into the way things play out against Alabama as well. Here's McGloin in his own words.
Obviously, with two quarterbacks set to see time, consistency with the offense will be a concern when the Lions line up against the Crimson Tide. Moye seems to think the offense should be able to perform regardless of who is under center, though.
"Every quarterback throws the ball a little differently," Moye said after the game. "That's something to prepare for, but as receivers, we've just got to get open and catch the ball."
Luckily for Penn State, Alabama will enter Saturday's game with uncertainty at quarterback as well. Both A.J. McCarron and Phillip Sims saw time in the Tide's 48-7 rout of Kent State, and neither acquitted himself particularly well. McCarron was 14-for-23 for 226 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions while Sims was 7-for-14 for 73 yards and two picks.
Regardless, if both McGloin and Bolden are going to play Saturday, they both need to improve to take down Alabama. The intensity is about to kick up a notch, and how each handles it may determine which is the guy under center for the rest of the season.