Frosh QB Bolden impresses for No. 19 Penn State

Penn State receiver Brett Beckett (83) celebrates with Michael Zordich (9) after Beckett scored on a second-quarter pass from quarterback Robert Bolden in an NCAA college football game against Youngstown State in State College, Pa., Saturday, Sept. 4, 2010. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
September 19, 2010 9:48:49 AM PDT
Rob Bolden stood tall in the pocket, displayed a rocket arm and made some clutch throws - a promising debut for the first true freshman quarterback to start a season opener in coach Joe Paterno's 45 years on the sideline at Penn State.

Bolden passed for 239 yards and two touchdowns, Chaz Powell tiptoed down the sideline on a 100-yard kickoff return to open the second half and the 19th-ranked Nittany Lions routed FCS school Youngstown State 44-14 on Saturday.

Walking the sideline in his familiar khakis and jet black sneakers, the 83-year-old Paterno notched his 395th career victory, the most among major college coaches.

A lot of the credit goes to Bolden, an 18-year-old freshman born in 1992.

Bolden barely beat out two returning sophomores for the job in a decision so tough for JoePa he didn't name a starter until Wednesday night.

It turned out to be a good choice, at least against the lower-division Penguins.

With Penn State trailing 7-6, Bolden hit Derek Moye on a third-and-10 for a 27-yard gain to the Penguins 41. Six plays later, Brackett caught a strong throw from Bolden over the middle at the 1, eluded the grasp of safety Andre Elliott and burst into the end zone for a 20-yard TD pass.

Unsettled early after missed tackles by the defense and a slow start for the offensive line, the blue and white-clad fans at Beaver Stadium breathed a collective sigh of relief.

It only got better from there for the Nittany Lions. Collin Wagner kicked a 48-yard field goal - one of three first-half field goals of over 40 yards - to close the first half. Powell opened the second with his 100-yard kickoff return dash to the end zone to make it 23-7. Youngstown State challenged, but the play was upheld after a review.

Derrick Thomas leveled Youngstown State's Jamaine Cook at the 23 on the ensuing kickoff, a big hit that may have sparked a Penn State defense that appeared to be sleepwalking at times early on. The Penguins went three and out on their next drive, capped by Chris Colasanti's big hit on a short pass over the middle to Adaris Bellamy on third down.

Bolden then hit Brackett again on the next drive on a pretty 22-yard TD pass down the right sideline for a 30-7 lead with 8:56 in the third - and the Nittany Lions were well on their way to a season-opening rout.

The 6-foot-6 Brackett was Bolden's favorite target with eight catches for 98 yards. Bolden finished 20 for 29 passing with one interception - which came after receiver Derek Moye slipped to the turf on his rout.

Youngstown State held high hopes early on after Penn State's offense couldn't get going and the defense gave up an 80-yard TD by Dominique Barnes off a screen over the middle. Barnes, who has scored TDs in four straight games dating to last season, went untouched for the score.

It was one of the few highlights in the debut of Penguins head coach Eric Wolford.


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