STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) — Penn State’s season opener featured the unusual sights of a two-quarterback rotation and Hall of Fame coach Joe Paterno calling the shots from the press box.
The running attack and an aggressive defense, though, were trademark Penn State.
Chaz Powell set the tone by returning the game’s opening kickoff 95 yards for a score and Silas Redd led an overwhelming ground game with two rushing touchdowns in a 41-7 win Saturday over Indiana State.
Paterno coached from the press box more than three weeks after suffering shoulder and pelvis injuries from an accidental collision in practice, though the Nittany Lions didn’t miss a beat against the Sycamores — an FCS team.
“Overall, it was a good effort. Obviously, Indiana State is not a great team, but they’re a bunch of kids that did a good job scrapping,” Paterno said afterward, clutching a crutch. “Overall, I thought it was a good day for us.”
Redd ran for 94 of his 104 yards by the second quarter, including a 4-yard score for a 28-0 lead. Rob Bolden started at quarterback, splitting time with Matt McGloin.
Indiana State managed 170 yards of total offense. They got brushed past and pushed around by a Penn State team anxious to rebound from last year’s 7-6 campaign.
“We knew they were going to be big and physical, but we just didn’t do what we said we were going to do, and that’s what it comes down to,” Sycamores defensive end Ben Obaseki said. “We knew that they’d be running the ball hard, we just didn’t tackle well, we didn’t get our blocks and that’s why things turned out the way it did.”
Indiana State returned home with at least one highlight after Justin Hilton caught a 20-yard touchdown pass from Ronnie Fouch to break the shutout with 2:16 left in the game.
Otherwise, it was all Penn State.
Michael Zordich displayed the Nittany Lions’ early physical superiority on back-to-back plays in the first quarter, throwing a devastating block up the middle to spring Redd loose for the tailback’s first score, from 9 yards.
On the ensuing kickoff, Zordich leveled Sycamore return man Leonard Riston near the sideline for a violent end to a 21-yard return.
“I just kind of went back to the second grade, just go where the ball’s at and run through it,” Zordich said. “That’s what you’re taught from game 1. Just go where the ball’s at and make a play.”
Paterno, who made “toughness” the keyword for preseason camp, surely relished what he witnessed from the press box. He had pronounced himself “50-50” this week to coach from the sideline.
The Nittany Lions got a nice warmup for next week’s considerably tougher game — a visit from No. 2 Alabama.
Both Bolden and McGloin got equal shots in what may well have been an extended audition for the starting gig against the Crimson Tide. Bolden, who started his second straight season-opener, finished 6 of 12 for 37 yards. He could have thrown for more had a couple of nice throws downfield not bounced off the hands of receivers Derek Moye and Justin Brown, respectively.
McGloin was 6 of 8 for 77 yards, with the offense looking crisper at times under his watch, especially in the 14-point second quarter.
Both players expressed frustration afterward, but accepted the situation.
And Paterno didn’t give in when pressed for clues afterward on whether one quarterback would emerge for the Alabama game.
“I think both of them are going to play, both of them can play,” Paterno said. “Again they’ve been under an awful lot of pressure … I think they’re fine, they’ll get better.”
Fouch, a Washington transfer, spent much of the afternoon on the run. Sacked on his first play by Gerald Hodges and intercepted on his second series by Drew Astorino, Fouch finished 11 of 23 passing for 102 yards with two interceptions and a touchdown.
“You have draft choices on that defense. I don’t think I have any draft choices on my O-line right now,” Sycamores coach Trent Miles said.
On a warm, muggy day with temperatures in the low 80s, the Happy Valley party got started 13 seconds in after Powell sidestepped his way around defenders before sprinting down the field for his 95-yard return on the opening kickoff.
After a three-and-out for Indiana State, Redd capped up the next drive with his 9-yard score, aided by Zordich’s big block. Redd finished with 12 carries, spending much of the second half on the sideline with the game well in hand.
Penn State ran for 245 yards on the afternoon.
It wasn’t the kind of start Miles was looking for, though it was hardly unexpected against the more talented Nittany Lions. The Sycamores are coming off a 6-5 season in 2010, which ended a staggering streak of 60 losses in 62 games.
It wasn’t entirely all smiles for Penn State. The offensive line struggled in pass protection, with Bolden and McGloin taking more hits than expected against a defense from a lower-division school.
That doesn’t bode well next week when the speedy Crimson Tide roll into town.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)