Lions offense has a number of problems
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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Penn State's offense is one of the worst in the country, and the ugly numbers prove it.
The Nittany Lions rank 115th in passing efficiency among 120 Division I-A teams, 106th in passing offense, 103rd in total offense, 90th in scoring offense and 66th in rushing offense.
Penn State is one of only three teams that have not thrown a touchdown pass in the first three games, joining Central Florida and San Jose State.
"I think we're struggling," coach Joe Paterno said Tuesday at his weekly news conference. "We have to get better, but we're probably not as bad as most people think."
Paterno, calling it a "seat of the pants" situation, plans to stick with a two-quarterback rotation in the non-conference game Saturday against Eastern Michigan at Beaver Stadium.
Sophomore Rob Bolden, who engineered the first winning drive of his career in the 14-10 win against Temple, has started the first three games, but redshirt junior Matt McGloin also has played a lot. The two have combined to complete just 47.9 percent of their passes (46 of 96) for 474 yards. Bolden also has two interceptions.
"I don't know what I'm waiting for," Paterno said. "I think both those kids are so close and both those kids deserve to play. One of these days I would like to be able to say, 'Hey, we are going to play one quarterback.' But I want to be fair to the team. If I felt that the team was much more comfortable with one than the other, then that obviously would be a factor, but that's not the way it is."
Penn State's offense is converting 80 percent of its opportunities in the red zone, with eight touchdowns in 10 trips. But the Lions are averaging only 158 yards passing per game and 148 yards rushing.
"The offense is definitely not where we need it to be," said redshirt junior fullback Michael Zordich, who began his career as a linebacker. "We expected more through all the preseason and offseason work that we've done.
"We're disappointed right now just because we haven't been performing like we want and the way that we can.
"We're doing everything we can right now to work to get back to putting up the numbers that we used to put up and being an offense the defense can count on."
Penn State also has major issues with its kicking game.
Redshirt junior Evan Lewis is 1 of 5 on field-goal tries, including 0 of 2 from 30-39 yards. Freshman Sam Ficken is 0 of 1. He had a 49-yard try blocked against the Owls.
Redshirt sophomore punter/kickoff specialist Anthony Fera is averaging 44.6 yards on eight punts since returning against Alabama from a suspension tied to a second alcohol-related offense.
Fera could eventually take on the additional duties of kicking field goals. The most recent Penn State player to punt and kick in the same season was Chris Bahr in 1975.
"Fera did not practice with us in preseason in some places because of some off-the-field antics," Paterno said. "So he's now getting back in the groove. Hopefully, he'll start to put some of that stuff behind him and he'll be better [and] more productive than he's been. And maybe he can beat out the kid that's ahead of him right now."
NOTES -- Paterno said tailback Stephfon Green (off-field issues) will not play the next two weeks, but Paterno said he may play later this season. ... Paterno didn't offer much of an update on the future playing status of wide receiver Curtis Drake (leg), who did not travel to Temple. "There's some things there that still have to be resolved for me to know for sure," Paterno said.
• Game: Penn State (2-1) vs. Eastern Michigan (2-1), Beaver Stadium, University Park, Pa.
• When: Noon, Saturday.
• TV: ESPN2.
First Published September 21, 2011 12:00 am