No week off in Penn State's quest to earn more respect
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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Penn State entered its off week with as many touchdown passes as victories this season -- eight.
Yet, the Nittany Lions (8-1, 5-0 Big Ten) are the only undefeated team in the conference, sitting in first place in the Leaders Division. They are ranked No. 16, have won seven consecutive games, including six by 10 points or fewer, but still are fighting for respect.
"We don't feel like we need to prove anything to anybody," wide receiver Derek Moye said Tuesday. "We're 8-1 for a reason. We know we have a good team.
"If you want to believe it or not, that's up to you."
Moye, a fifth-year senior co-captain from Rochester High School who returned to the lineup in the second half Saturday against Illinois after missing the two previous games with a broken bone in his left foot, said he and his teammates are "hoping for five more [games], with the Big Ten championship [game]."
Penn State, already bowl eligible, faces the fifth-toughest closing stretch in Division I-A, according to the NCAA, based on the combined records (18-6) of the final three regular-season opponents.
After playing its final home game Nov. 12 against No. 9 Nebraska, Penn State will finish on the road at Ohio State (Nov. 19) and at No. 19 Wisconsin (Nov. 26).
"We got a lot of work ahead of us," coach Joe Paterno said Tuesday. "We just happen right now to be a little bit ahead of one or two teams, but we sure are not home free."
Penn State has been winning games with its defense, which ranks 10th in Division I-A, but its passing game remains baffling, sitting at 109th in passing efficiency and 91st in passing offense.
Matt McGloin has started the past two games at quarterback after Rob Bolden started the first seven.
McGloin didn't play great, but led the first winning drive of his career in the 10-7 victory Saturday against Illinois at Beaver Stadium. He has thrown seven touchdown passes this season to Bolden's one.
Bolden, who has played sparingly the past two games, was booed loudly Saturday after going 0 for 4 passing and playing 14 snaps in the second quarter, but Paterno plans to stick with the rotation.
"We're still gonna use the rotation," he said. "It wouldn't be fair to Bolden for me to not still consider him as one of the kids that we're gonna have to depend on.
"He's worked too hard, he's made too many sacrifices and he's got too much ability for me, just because of one football game or two football games, to say, `Hey we're not counting on you.' He's gotta be ready to go. And we'll play him. I'm pretty sure we'll play him."
Paterno said he still thinks Bolden, who has six career touchdown passes and 11 interceptions, has a "great future."
"He has not had a lot of good luck," Paterno said. "He's had some passes that have been dropped in a couple of ballgames that could have made a big difference. I don't see any problems as of right now.
"Maybe some will develop that I don't know about, but, right now, he appears to be fine."
Tailback Silas Redd was Mr. October for Penn State, which will practice through Friday, then take the weekend off.
He led all running backs nationally with 703 rushing yards in the month and his 111.78 rushing yards per game ranks 16th in the nation.
Redd also has a Big Ten-leading 1,006 yards on 195 carries, to go along with seven touchdowns.
"He's playing great," Moye said. "He's making the first guy miss every time.
"He's running hard, which is something I expected from the beginning of the year. And I think it shows how well our offensive line is playing, too.
"They're opening up holes for him. I think when he gets to that second level, it's going to take more than one guy to bring him down."
Moye, who entered the game Saturday late in the third quarter, made two catches and drew a key pass-interference call in the end zone on the winning drive that was capped by Redd's 3-yard touchdown run with 1:08 left.
First Published November 2, 2011 12:00 am