Penn State: Sputtering offense seeks red-zone punch after lost night in Iowa
Iowa defensive tackle Christian Ballard sacks Penn State's Rob Bolden, left, Saturday. After the game, Lions coach Joe Paterno opined of his quarterback, "Maybe we're asking too much of the freshman."
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IOWA CITY, Iowa -- There seemed to be as much confusion on Penn State's sideline Saturday night as there was on the field.
Quarterbacks coach Jay Paterno said Rob Bolden's 49-yard pass to wide receiver Brett Brackett late in the second quarter of the 24-3 loss to Iowa caught the coaching staff off-guard.
Brackett ended up at the 2 with six seconds remaining in the half and Penn State down, 17-0, but the coaches couldn't agree on whether to spike the football or take a timeout.
"The way it worked out, we got more yards [on Brackett's reception] than we thought we'd get," Paterno said.
Instead of using its last timeout, Penn State opted to have Bolden spike the ball on first down. Three seconds ran off the clock.
Receivers coach Mike McQueary argued with the referee on the sideline, insisting that the play only took one second.
The confusion and perplexing clock management ended up leading to a delay of game penalty on Bolden.
The coaches then sent in Collin Wagner, who kicked a 25-yard field goal to cut the Nittany Lions' deficit to 17-3 at halftime.
"One of the officials told us we were getting five seconds, and we didn't get it," said Jay Paterno, who was upstairs in the coaches' box. "But it didn't matter. We would have kicked the field goal, anyway."
Coach Joe Paterno insisted that a timeout in the closing seconds would not have helped the Lions.
"If I take the timeout, what do we have?" he said. "We're going to kick the field goal anyway. ... The big decision was whether to score or at least get on the board.
"I felt if it was 17-3, then they [would] kick off to us and we're two touchdowns away. If we score after halftime, it's a 17-10 ballgame. That's the one that hurt."
Penn State, which has converted just 33 percent of its trips inside the red zone into touchdowns this season -- 6 of 18 -- had another major red-zone misstep in the third quarter.
Faced with a third-and-goal from the 1 with the score still 17-3, fullback Michael Zordich was stuffed for no gain.
McQueary frantically called a timeout just before the play clock expired on fourth down.
The next call was for Bolden to sprint right. He appeared to have a clear path to the end zone, but was stopped a foot short by Iowa's Christian Ballard.
"Maybe we're asking too much of the freshman," Joe Paterno said. "But that's neither here nor there."
Penn State's difficulties started early. The Lions took a timeout on the third play of the game because they only had 10 men on the field.
Later, Paterno decided to go for it on fourth-and-1 at the Iowa 42 early in the fourth quarter. Freshman tight end Kevin Haplea was called for a false start and the Nittany Lions punted.
The game ended with backup quarterback Kevin Newsome tossing an incompletion to Brackett at the Iowa 12.
Penn State's three points were its second fewest in the 23-game series against the Hawkeyes.
"We have to stop with the stalling in the red zone," running back Evan Royster said. "We need to put points on the board and help our defense out."
Penn State was knocked out of both The Associated Press and USA Today coaches' polls Sunday. The Lions had appeared in 38 consecutive AP polls.
Penn State (3-2, 0-1 Big Ten) will host Illinois (2-2, 0-1) Saturday at Beaver Stadium. The homecoming game will be carried at noon on ESPN2.
"We're obviously not where we need to be," left tackle Quinn Barham said. "We need to have more rushing yards, open more holes, protect Rob better, be more consistent and score some touchdowns. That's been a problem for us."
First Published October 4, 2010 12:00 am