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Penn State rolls past FCS foe Indiana State 41-7

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Chaz Powell returned the opening kickoff 95 yards to put the Nittany Lions up early, and a carousel of quarterbacks, running backs and special teamers took care of the rest as Penn State (No. 25 USA Today) won their 2011 season opener, 41-7, Saturday afternoon at Beaver Stadium.

Penn State stepped on the throats of the Indiana State Sycamores and never relented.

Chaz Powell’s second career kickoff return energized the rocking white-and-blue crowd, but what made this game more intriguing was how the coaching staff managed the situation at a variety of skill positions.

Rob Bolden got the start under center and played the entire 1st quarter, albeit inefficiently, completing only 2 of his 5 passes for a meager 9 yards.

Luckily for the Nittany Lions, the ground attack proved to be much more effective against the Sycamore defense.

Four Nittany Lions tailbacks combined for 90 yards in the 1st quarter, with sophomore Silas Redd leading the way with 57 yards and a score to give Penn State a 14-0 lead 7 minutes into the game.

Junior Matt McGloin took over for Bolden beginning in the 2nd quarter and managed to get Penn State’s passing attack in gear, completing 5-of-7 passes for 69 yards.

McGloin’s passing would set up two scoring drives in the quarter for Penn State.

Starting at their own 25 yard line, Penn State would receive 2 first downs courtesy of passes from McGloin. Much like the QB shuffle that occurred at the start of the 2nd, a new tailback would take over the load starting the second quarter, with junior Brandon Beachum getting a look in the backfield.

Beachum rushed for 33 yards on the opening drive of the 2nd, highlighted by a 22 yard rush to Indiana State’s 13. Fellow back Michael Zordich would score 4 plays later, giving the Nittany Lions the 21-0 advantage.

After forcing Indiana State to punt, Penn State would again march down the field, moving the ball 77 yards in just 6 plays. The coaching staff flipped back to Silas for this drive, with the second-year back racking up 37 yards and a touchdown, putting Penn State up 28-0 going into the half.

Silas would finish the day with 104 yards and 2 scores on just 12 carries, managing an impressive 8.7 rushing average.

Both McGloin and Bolden received looks in the 3rd quarter, but the running game continued to carry the offense for Penn State, overpowering a Sycamore defensive line that looked overwhelmed with each successive run.

11 players carried the ball for Penn State over the course of the game, with 5 players rushing for at least 15 yards. Overall, the team racked up a total of 245 yards on the ground and 5 scores.

The plan of attack was methodical, effective, and ultimately a winner. However, there’s still room for improvement in the coach’s eyes, particularly in the passing game.

“I thought we played a good, solid game,” said Head Coach Joe Paterno. “Obviously there’s room to improve. I don’t think we caught the ball well enough, and I thought the quarterbacks rushed a couple throws, but overall I thought it was a good day for us.”

McGloin finished the day 6-8 for 77 yards, while Bolden finished 6-12 for 37 yards. While McGloin put up better numbers, Bolden was the victim of several dropped passes.

Coach Paterno remained mum on who will start next week against Alabama.

“I think both of them are going to play. They’ve been under an awful lot of pressure because everyone wants to know who’s going to play quarterback. I think they’re fine; I think they’ll get better,” Paterno said.

Senior Joe Suhey added a touchdown later in the 3rd to put Penn State up 34-0, a 1-yard rush that capped another quick drive for the Nittany Lions.

Third-string quarterback Shane McGregor rushed 3 yards for a touchdown in the 4th quarter, giving Penn State a 41-0 lead and ensuring the denizens of Happy Valley would be able to celebrate a win to start the 125th season of Penn State football.

Indiana State added a score in the final minutes of the 4th quarter to deny the Penn State defense a shutout. However, the defensive effort was still stellar. The unit stifled the Indiana State offense, preventing the Sycamores from ever finding a rhythm.

The offensive line for the Sycamores looked overmatched all day, with quarterback Ronnie Fouch scrambling to avoid tackles and forcing passes to receivers that were often double covered.

Fouch threw 2 interceptions on the day, with freshman corner Adrian Amos returning one for 46 yards and senior safety Drew Astorino returning the other for 33 yards.

One area of concern for the Nittany Lions came from the kicking game. Junior Evan Lewis missed both of his field goal attempts and an extra point, causing the special teams unit to switch to freshman Sam Ficken in the 3rd quarter.

Penn State also ran into some penalty trouble, getting flagged 7 times for 45 yards. These minor problems shouldn’t sully an overall solid day from the Nittany Lions, but they will need correction for next week when the No. 2-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide visit Happy Valley.

“We got to go against someone like [Alabama], that’s got the kind of skill people that we’re going to see this upcoming week, with their ability to control the football,” Paterno said. “We’re really just getting a feel of what kind of football team we have.”

Joe Paterno coached from the press box Saturday afternoon because of lingering injuries sustained during a summer practice. It was his first game in the box since 2008

With today’s win, the Nittany Lions own the second longest non-conference winning streak in the Football Bowl Subdivision. Their 23-game winning streak trails only LSU’s 31-game streak.

Nick Saban’s Crimson Tide squad comes in to Happy Valley as the No. 2 team in the nation. Alabama pushed Penn State around last season in Tuscaloosa, winning 24-3. Kickoff for the rematch is scheduled for 3:30 PM.

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