Alabama Survives Early Pressure, Pulls Away from Nittany Lions

Story posted September 12, 2011 in Sports, CommRadio by Ryan Smith

Alabama (2-0, 0-0 SEC) scored 27 unanswered points after allowing Penn State (1-1, 0-0 Big Ten) to kick a field goal on the opening drive, as the Crimson Tide rolled over the Nittany Lions by a score of 27-11 at Beaver Stadium before a crowd of 107,846.

The Nittany Lions chewed up over seven minutes of clock on their opening drive and seemed to be riding the energy of the White Out crowd. However, the first drive did not come without its troubles. Poor communication and confusion led Penn State to take two timeouts in the game’s first three minutes.

Then on a fourth down and one from the Alabama 30-yard line, the offensive personnel could not settle on a play, so Penn State took its final timeout before the first quarter was halfway over.

“There was no excuse for that,” said Penn State head coach Joe Paterno. “We got ourselves into a situation where we got too involved in details.”

After all the timeout madness, Penn State still could only muster an Evan Lewis field goal to take the early 3-0 lead.

Penn State’s defense then held Alabama’s offense to a three-and-out and appeared poised to take the game’s momentum back. On a third-and-eight play, quarterback Rob Bolden dumped a screen to running back Silas Redd while absorbing a huge hit, and Redd scampered his way to a first down. The crowd was in an uproar. Unfortunately for the Lions, the good gain was called back on a hold, and the drive stalled.

It would turn out to be Penn State’s last real offensive gasp until the fourth quarter.

It was a tough day for both Nittany Lion quarterbacks, Bolden and Matt McGloin. Bolden was 11 of 29 for 144 yards and an interception, while McGloin was credited with just one completion and zero passing yards.

“We moved the ball well at times, but we just shot ourselves in the foot,” said McGloin. “This isn’t going to make or break our year, though.”

After possessing the football for the first 7:26 of the opening quarter, the Nittany Lions did not have a drive longer than four minutes except for a meaningless fourth quarter touchdown drive when the game was already out of hand.

“A drop here, a missed block there, the little things were big,” said Bolden. “We had to score. I felt like we should have had way more points on the board.”

The momentum would teeter to Alabama’s side with one gutsy play-call by head coach Nick Saban. On 4th and 1 from the Alabama 40-yard line, Saban brought his punt unit on the field. However, he called a direct snap to Brad Smelley, who picked up the first down by the nose of the football. The crowd erupted, thinking Penn State had the turnover on downs.

The Tide turned the conversion and deflated crowd feeling into a 69-yard scoring drive capped off by a third down touchdown throw from A.J. McCarron to Michael Williams from five yards out.

Armed with this 7-3 lead, Alabama rode the momentum through the halftime break. The Tide defense was stout, and as a result, the Alabama offense did not have to drive more than 70 yards for any of their touchdowns. Trent Richardson finished the day with 116 yards rushing and two touchdowns.

Quarterback A.J. McCarron was poised and efficient in the Alabama passing attack, completing 19 passes for 163 yards and a touchdown. More importantly, the Alabama offense did not commit a single turnover.

Penn State, on the other hand, lost two fumbles, both caused by Alabama cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick. The Penn State defense wore down throughout the afternoon due to the offensive instability, and their inability to force turnovers proved costly.

“There’s a lot of things we could have done to help our offense,” said defensive tackle Devon Still. “The defense is just going to have to learn to play through the fatigue.”

Penn State hits the road next week and looks to learn from the Alabama experience, as they visit the Temple Owls at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia. Kickoff next Saturday is scheduled for 12:00 p.m. ComRadio will have complete coverage beginning at 11:00 a.m.

Ryan Smith is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, e-mail rds5164@psu.edu.