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Penn State grounded in loss to Bama

Penn State came into Saturday night's pressure cooker at No. 1 Alabama with a simple plan.

  • Run the football

  • Don't commit turnovers

  • Keep Alabama's offense off the field

The Lions failed in all three areas, leading to a somewhat predictable result: a 24-3 loss to the defending national champs.

Penn State wasn't very competitive in the final 20 minutes or so, but the Lions had many chances to make the Tide sweat a little more. All four Penn State turnovers took place in Alabama territory, including a Rob Bolden interception at the Tide 3-yard line as the Nittany Lions seemed poised to tie the score at 7-7.

With another chance to grab momentum after halftime, a strong Penn State drive ended with another Bolden interception, this time at the 13-yard line. Bolden finished 13 for 29 for 144 yards with two interceptions and no touchdowns.

None of this should surprise you. Bolden was bound to make some mistakes in his first road start, no matter the opponent. Put him against Alabama on the road, and you had to expect some miscues. He'll learn from the experience and be better off eventually. I still like what he brings to the table.

More troubling for Penn State is the continued inability to spark Evan Royster and the run game. Royster had only 32 yards on nine carries. Frustration must be building for the senior, who returned to school to improve his NFL stock but hasn't done so thus far.

Penn State's defense also struggled against a balanced Alabama offense, as quarterback Greg McElroy and running back Trent Richardson both had big games.

Where does this leave Penn State? Still a step behind Ohio State, Iowa and, to a lesser extent, Wisconsin in the Big Ten.

The Lions have some work to do in the next two weeks before another huge test Oct. 2 at Iowa to open league play.