Paterno stalls on starting quarterback question


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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Penn State coach Joe Paterno isn't ready to name a starting quarterback, even with a white out date looming Saturday against No. 3 Alabama at Beaver Stadium.

He reiterated Tuesday that he expects to play Rob Bolden and Matt McGloin against the Crimson Tide.

Bolden has started nine games the past two years, including the opener against Indiana State, and McGloin has started five.

But McGloin, a former walk-on, has engineered 27 touchdown drives to Bolden's 12 during that stretch.

"Both those kids are so close and they're both good," Paterno said. "And if we play well, and everybody else plays well, it won't matter which one plays.


Saturday
  • Who: Penn State (1-0) vs. Alabama (1-0), 3:30 p.m.
  • Where: Beaver Stadium, University Park, Pa.
  • TV: WTAE.

"Sometimes, you guys don't realize, these kids have worked so hard to have an opportunity, and they're so close. It's difficult for me to get up here and say, 'Well, so and so is better or this guy is better.' I think we're very fortunate to have the situation we're in.

"I think what we'll do this Saturday, we'll try to win the football game.

"Whether we do it with two quarterbacks or one, I can't tell you right now."

Good news appears to be on the way for the beleaguered kicking game. Paterno said punter/kicker Anthony Fera will be available for Saturday's game after not playing in the opener.

Backup tailback Stephfon Green and backup cornerback Derrick Thomas, who also spent time in Paterno's doghouse this summer, could make their debuts for Penn State, which climbed into The Associated Press rankings Tuesday at No. 23. The Lions are No. 20 in the USA Today coaches poll.

"I think that we all feel comfortable that they all deserve -- they're ready to go," Paterno said.

Kicker Evan Lewis missed field-goal attempts of 38 and 47 yards and also missed an extra point before being replaced by Sam Ficken in the opener. And Alex Butterworth averaged just 38.0 yards on three punts.

Fera averaged 41.4 yards on 46 punts last season, and he also handled kickoffs.

"We're still a little bit up in the air about the kicking situation," Paterno said. "But with Fera in there, obviously it improves."

Paterno said tight end Andrew Szczerba, who missed last season with a back injury, suffered a mild concussion in the opener and his playing status is up in the air for Saturday. He had one catch for 4 yards in his first career start.

"He's had some problems," Paterno said. "And so they're going to watch him for a day or two before they make a decision as to whether it would be safe for him to play."

Paterno said that backup offensive tackle Mike Farrell, a redshirt junior from Shady Side Academy, will be out for a couple of weeks after injuring his ACL in the opener. Paterno said the injury to Farrell's right knee won't require surgery.

Adam Gress, a redshirt sophomore from West Mifflin, will fill Farrell's role.

"Gress has been working pretty hard and I think he's got a chance to step in there for Farrell and get the job done," Paterno said. "A lot will depend, obviously, on how well he practices this week. ... I think he'll be all right."

Paterno also said oft-injured wide receiver Curtis Drake (leg) is close to returning after getting a clean bill of health Friday from the medical staff.

"He's getting very close to where I think everybody will be comfortable that we can put him in there, let him play a lot of football," Paterno said. "He's certainly got the physical ability to do it."

Paterno's health also appears to be getting slightly better, although he arrived for his weekly news conference Tuesday once again with the aid of a cane.

"I'm getting better every day," said Paterno, who worked the opener from the coaches booth. "I've got my fingers crossed. I think I'll be able to be on the sideline and there's a good chance I will be. I feel good. I've got some pain.

"I can't jump up and down the steps or anything like that. But overall, that's not a problem for me as far as the coaching."


Ron Musselman: rmusselman@post-gazette.com and Twitter @rmusselmanppg.


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