Morelli OnLion: TicketCity Preview

It’s almost here.

The Penn State football team is in Dallas preparing for the TicketCity Bowl, which takes place on Monday.

The Nittany Lions are underdogs to Houston in the contest, which doesn’t have a whole lot of history. In today’s edition of Morelli OnLion, we’ll preview the big game and take a closer look at the coaching search, which will continue into the new year.

Let’s start with the TicketCity Bowl.

TicketCity Bowl preview

As the 9-3 Lions prepare for the 12-1 Houston Cougars, the big story — besides the coaching search — is the situation at quarterback. Following a recent practice, starting quarterback Matt McGloin got into a locker room altercation with wide receiver Curtis Drake. During the altercation, McGloin got knocked to the floor, suffered a concussion and had a seizure. While the Nittany Lions have practiced this week, Rob Bolden has taken the majority of snaps as the first-team quarterback. It appears that Bolden will get the start on Jan. 2.

Uh oh.

Look, I won’t pull any punches here. Since day one, I haven’t been impressed with Bolden, considered a four- and five-star recruit by many recruiting services. During his freshman year, he looked lost as the Nittany Lions were blown out in losses at Alabama and Iowa. This year, he’s regressed. Go back and watch a replay of the Illinois game, where Bolden was 0-for-4 passing and fumbled a shotgun snap. He held onto the ball too long and got hammered. For the season, he’s completed 46-of-109 passes for 548 yards. He’s been intercepted four times and has just one touchdown pass. Yes, it has been an ugly season for Mr. Bolden.

The prediction here? It’s about to get a lot uglier.

Bolden has made a career of beating up on the weaklings in the non-conference schedule. When he’s been pressed into action against a quality opponent (Alabama, Iowa) he looks lost and confused. He has little presence in the pocket and fails to scramble out of trouble. The Nittany Lions made it to a New Year’s Day bowl last season mostly because of McGloin and they are in a Jan. 2 bowl this season because of him. Unfortunately, the concussion has pressed Bolden into action. However, the selection of Bolden is not without controversy. He got into trouble for swiping a $2 bottle of Gatorade right around the same time that McGloin sustained the concussion.

It appears that Rob Bolden will start in the TicketCity Bowl on Monday.

Simply put, the quarterback situation is a mess. Interim coach Tom Bradley has been dealt a hand no one should have to deal with. He’s heading into a bowl game against a high-powered Houston squad with an inept starting QB. The Lions best chance for winning comes with McGloin at the helm, but that appears less likely with each passing day. His only other option is Central Cambria graduate Shane McGregor, who hasn’t taken a meaningful snap and is just 1-of-4 for 12 yards this season. Penn State’s best chance of winning this game probably lies in the hands of the defense and how well it can shut down the Cougars’ high-powered passing attack, led by quarterback Case Keenum.

Make no mistake about it, without McGloin, the Lions have little to no chance of winning this game. With him, they have a fighter’s chance. Bradley is holding out hope that McGloin can go.

“That’s day to day. That’s up to the doctors,” Bradley said. “They’re testing him and working him out every day.”

If Bolden falters early, Bradley shouldn’t hesitate to insert McGregor. At 9-3, the Lions have little to lose. They’ve dropped two of three heading into this game and with the dark cloud hovering above the program, a win would do wonders for morale.

If Bradley is stuck with Bolden, that could mean heavy doses of running backs Silas Redd and Stephfon Green. Running the ball isn’t a bad option.

It says here that Monday’s game will probably be Penn State’s fourth loss of the season. We’re guessing that Bolden gets the nod. He’s good for a couple of turnovers in what will likely be an ugly loss for the Lions.

Gantdaily.com prediction: Houston 38, Penn State 14.

The Search Continues

As the Penn State coaching search closes in on 2012, one can only wonder when it will end. We keep hearing a lot of interesting names — first Urban Meyer, who recently inked a huge deal with Ohio State, then Mike Munchak, who says he’s content with his head coaching job in the NFL.

The Penn State search committee has already talked to several members of the current staff, most notably Tom Bradley and Larry Johnson.

In a recent Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article, an agent for several high-profile coaches called the Penn State coaching job “toxic.” I couldn’t agree more.

The next coach — whoever it is — is going to have to deal with the aftermath of the child sex abuse scandal for many years to come. It’s not fair and it’s unfortunate, but it’s reality. Former coach Joe Paterno may have made Penn State what it is today. In the end, however, he destroyed much of what he built.

Chris Morelli is an award-winning writer/editor who lives in Centre County and covers Penn State athletics for gantdaily.com. He’s also a regular on “Sports Central,” which airs on ESPN Radio in Altoona and State College. E-mail him at morellionlion@gmail.com. Also, be sure to check out Morelli OnLion on Facebook!

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