November 21, 2010

Numbers Don't Lie: Rob Bolden Getting a Raw Deal

Matt McGloin
Matt McGloin
Since coming in to relieve a concussed Rob Bolden at Minnesota five weeks ago, Matt McGloin has been the hottest of hot topics around Penn State football fan and media circles. He's done well; excellent, some say. He should be the entrenched starter, because he's earned it, many others point out.

They call people like me "bitter" or "hating" towards McGloin. They think we're blind to what he's accomplished, while even more blind as to Bolden's struggles when the job was his only a few games ago.

Let me tell you exactly who is the blind party in this equation. For the purposes of this post, I will highlight a column by the excellent columnist Donnie Collins up in Scranton. Please keep in mind that I am not solely picking on Collins, but simply pointing to his column as an example. From Sunday's column on McGloin:
(Ed.- Collins points out just before this passage how Jay Paterno won't commit to one quarterback, saying that it remains an open competition week to week. The column continues with...)


That talk is getting tired, and quite frankly, it's an insult to the intelligence of anyone who has actually watched the games these past few weeks. Penn State has scored 143 points offensively in the 19 quarters Matt McGloin has played. The Lions didn't score more than 24 points against any Football Bowl Subdivision opponent Bolden started against. Outside of the Ohio State game, the Lions haven't scored less than 33 with McGloin under center."
No sir, the insult to intelligence everywhere is that the large contingent of McGloinists will never even hint at the fact that Bolden has been given a raw deal, and McGloin has been set up perfectly for success. How is this possible? McGloin has done exactly what Collins wrote about--he's sparked the offense to 143 points in 19 quarters, while the same unit struggled under Bolden's leadership. That's all true... but it's not accurate; not accurate of what's happened since McGloin has taken over.

Since the Minnesota game is an outlier in this problem, I will leave it out in the comparisons. And don't cry foul here, because it's actually hurting my argument to leave out Minnesota. Bolden was 11-13 for 130 yards and a touchdown before going down; while McGloin didn't do nearly as well. So leaving out that game is equal to both sides. I am also dropping the Youngstown State game, because not only is that game against a lower division team, I'm sure McGloin would have done just as well as Bolden against the Penguins--something McGloinists won't do for Bolden. But that's exactly what I'm about to argue.

Here are the pass and total defense rankings for the first six games, when Bolden was the full-time quarterback, and the last four games, when McGloin was the full-time quarterback.

Opponent 2010Total Def.Scoring Def.Pass Eff. Def.Pass Def.
Kent State18542662
Opponent 2010Total Def.Scoring Def.Pass Eff. Def.Pass Def.
Ohio State3575

As can be clearly seen in these numbers, Rob Bolden faced defenses that were on average overall better, as well as better against the pass, than the average defenses Matt McGloin went up against. Notice how many triple-digit rankings are in McGloin's opponent chart, compared to Boldens? That's right, Bolden didn't face one defense with a triple-digit ranking; the lowest single stat ranking was Iowa's 64th ranked pass efficiency defense. The lowest ranking McGloin faced was Indiana's 115th ranked pass efficiency defense.

Rob Bolden warmups [2]
Rob Bolden faced defenses that were
light-years ahead of the ones Matt McGloin faced.
Overall, every defense Bolden faced was ranked in the top 40 in each of the major pass defense categories. McGloin, meanwhile, faced defenses that averaged rankings lower than 63rd nationally in every one of those major pass defense categories. Take out the Ohio State defense, and it would be somewhere in the 80s, or worse. Even take out the Alabama defensive rankings, and Bolden would still have faced units averaging in the top 40 or better.

Now, since I'm not one to focus on only a narrow set of statistics, let's look at some other numbers that support the claim that McGloin has been the beneficiary of not only much poorer defensive teams, but also, an improved Penn State team--namely, the Penn State running game.

Opponent 2010Opp. Rush Def.Opp. Rush RankPSU Rush vs.
Kent State101.458162
Opponent 2010Opp. Rush Def.Opp. Rush RankPSU Rush vs.
Ohio State86.363113

From those numbers, there is a significant improvement in both Penn State's rushing numbers, and a counterpart depletion in opponents' rushing defense rankings.

Silas Redd stiffarm
The Penn State rushing game has been
significantly better since the opposing defenses
have gotten worse.
Rob Bolden faced three rushing defenses that are currently ranked in the top 22 nationally, with two of those in the top 10. It is also a fact that the Penn State offensive line has been poor at run blocking, and even poorer in the first half of the season. Against Bolden's opponents, Penn State rushed for only 7 yards per game more than the opponent's average allowed.

Once McGloin became the full-time quarterback, the opponents' rush defenses became noticeably worse statistically. Three of those rush defenses ranked worse than 82nd nationally, with Ohio State the only strong rush defense. Against these three defenses, including Ohio State's, Penn State was able to average 27 rushing yards above the opponent's average allowed. Not only was the rushing defense Penn State faced worse, but it was a clear indication that the offensive line and running backs were doing a much better job for the Nittany Lions.

Comparing the two sets, the opposing rush defenses Bolden faced gave up 38.22 fewer yards per game on the ground than those McGloin faced. The ranking averages differ by a staggering 45.7 places. Penn State was also able to gain 57.45 more yards per game on the ground against the teams opposing McGloin. A stronger running game keeps defenses off-balance, and makes the quarterback's life much, much easier, as also it makes playcalling a dream.

So what does it all mean?

Rob Bolden had the unenviable task of leading a younger, less-experienced Nittany Lions team, against opposing defenses that were among the best nationally. After suffering a concussion, Bolden was replaced by Matt McGloin. Once McGloin became the full-time quarterback--starting against Michigan, then replacing Bolden after just three series against Northwestern--the opposing defenses ranked among the worse nationally. In fact, three of the four defenses against which Matt McGloin led Penn State were three of the very worst in the nation.

Combine all of that with the fact that Penn State's running game has become much improved--partly due to a better offensive line, partly due to worse rushing defenses faced--and it's fairly obvious that McGloin has not been "better" than Bolden. What is obvious here is that McGloin has led a better team, against worse competition. In McGloin's single game against an elite defense--elite as in the level of defenses Bolden consistently was forced to throw against--at Ohio State, the redshirt sophomore had a massive meltdown, throwing 14 points on the board... for the other team.

This is not to say McGloin isn't as good as Bolden, at this stage of the season. McGloin is a good quarterback, and has done everything asked of him. But so has Bolden. And to say that McGloin has "earned" the right to be Penn State's entrenched starting quarterback is a shallow argument if I've ever heard one.

All photos by Mike.
Follow LBU on Facebook and Twitter. Subscribe to by Email


  1. there's more to be quarterback than just the stats. mcgloin looks like he wants to be out there and be a leader while bolden looked afraid to make mistakes.

  2. First, Anonymous, try reading the rules for commenting. Second, are you saying that Bolden doesn't want to be out there and doesn't want to be a leader? Because that's what you're saying by pointing out that McGloin does want to and not saying that Bolden does, too. If there was one point I wish I made in the post, it's this one: Bolden is a freakin' TRUE freshman. McGloin has been at Penn State for three seasons. Of course Bolden looked scared. He had a terrible offensive line. There was no relief from the running game. And he had to face the defending national champions (Bama), the defending Big Ten champions (OSU), and the defending Orange Bowl champions (Iowa) all on the road.

    Sorry, but I'm looking towards the future of this program. McGloin has two seasons after this one. Bolden has three.

  3. Mike,

    I couldn't agree more with your opinion. Please go post this on the scout forums and watch how many people call you out for it. Please do that. I wanna laugh at all those people trying to nasay you. Thanks for posting.

  4. Chris--Thanks. I would love to see the utter sh*t storm over on those premium forums. But I'm not going to post it over there, b/c then they will just accuse me of trying to stir up trouble.

    But if someone else were to post it...

  5. I don't see why this is such a big deal. Bolden does look "scared" at times on the field. He is a TRUE freshman. He has faced really tough defenses. McGloin is winning football games (playing extremely well while at it) and is obviously confident. That is a huge part of the game. Anyone who has ever played any sport knows this. He won the job for the rest of the season. Bolden will gain confidence this offseason (his FIRST one) and will be ready to roll next season. We won every game we should of with McGloin...thats awesome. We are 7-4...did anyone think we would be 7-4 after losing to Illinois the way we did? This is Penn State...a program that wins. McGloin salvaged that for us this year. I can't wait for next year! Should be an exciting offseason.

  6. Good article Mike although I think you are digging a little to deep. I was a big Bolden defender but there are a couple of things he does that bothers me. He stands in the pocket too long at times and lets it collapse on him a la Darryl Clark, doesn't throw the deep ball well, and seems too robotic at times.

    Matt M looks like the better athlete out there. He makes quick decisions, scrambles when there is pressure, and throws the deep ball better.

    Ricki Stanzi for Iowa has some of the best numbers in the country and didn't put anywhere near the numbers McGloin did against Northwestern and Indiana. If it's just bad defense then why isn't all the QB's putting up big numbers versus those teams?

  7. Nevermind Mike. You don't have to go any farther than this site to find those people.

  8. I think many are over looking McGloin's past 2 years as QB of the scout team playing against one of the best defenses in the country with a second string o-line. He is quick to read the defense and pick up blitzes (like a Arena Football QB) which Bolden is not. People like to say Bolden was removed from the NW games because he fumbled. I think he was removed because NW was blitzing and Bolden wasn't picking it up and was getting creamed. Once McGloin came into the game that ended because he burned them when they tried. Also, teams have to play more honest against him (he has mastered a bigger play book to work from) which helps set up the running game. When the line is stacked against Bolden there is no place for the runners to go.

    I also noticed you did not provide any red zone statistics. I think that has changed dramatically since McGloin has been QB (as far as TDs are concerned)

    I don't buy into playing (college ball) for the future. It's not fair to the seniors and you will always have some weak spot to fill. We should be trying to win ever game.

    I like Bolden and think he will have a fair shot in the off season (spring practice) along with Jones to win the starting spot next season. Don't rule Jones out. He's getting a lot of practice with our future O-line. Bolden and Jones should have a much better command of the play book by then. All three are talented and it will come down to the intangibles. Which one demonstrates leadership, poise and a winning attitude along with the ability to read and react quickly to the defense.

    I was an undergrad during the Chuck Burkhart (sp) years in the late 60s. All three of our current QBs are more athletically gifted then Chuck was. However, Chuck never lost a game for us. He had what it took to win even in tight situations. He would drive us crazy with his passes as we all thought the backup had a much better arm.

  9. Mac had made better decisions. The coaching staff has not. The article is right on the money. A average QB looks like NFL contender against a bad defense.

    Bolden could have had put up 50 plus on Indianna. Mac does not have the arm to throw the 20 yard plus passes that Bolden can. Mac looked great against OSU in first half thanks to a great game plan. Throwing a slant to Moye for a TD was a refreshing change in the pass attack.

    Keep up the good work. I am looking forward to PSU keeping MSU out of the Big Ten title, the defense is going to have to make some stops for the Lions to win.

  10. McGloin is a scrub at best. The author nailed it exactly. The ginger interception machine has been bolstered by awful opposition, a marked improvement in the oline (see awful opposition) and an improvement in the running game (again, see above). Bolden played much better against quality teams and should be the clear starter moving forward. Fire Joe and any of the other fraud coaches that love ruining our player development.

  11. Mike,

    So let me get this straight? You argument is based on assuming temples defense is just as good iowas based on statistical rankings? I would be interested to see where penn states d ranking would be compared to kent states. My guess is u would argue they r about the same. C'mon let's just throw out the statistics and use common sense. Bolden moved the ball well until he got to the redzone where the windows are smaller and accuracy is more important. You can make the argument that mcgloin would have struggled in the redzone against iowa and alabama. But bolden also had trouble against kent state and temple. Bolden may end up the better qb with more time. But mcgloin is a better in the redzone right now. It would have been tough staying ahead of michigan with fgs. Josh

  12. And before you tear up all the errors in my post above. 1) I did this on a droid. 2) that would be off topic (see rules)

  13. TOPIC: Numbers Don't Lie: Rob Bolden Getting a Raw Deal

    Well - regarding staying on topic it is about the leadership - this is an intangible which you can not but numbers on other than wins. A previous post did mention that the past 2-years McGloin has been on the scout team - against the top defensive unit - this is alot of experience especially in working up to play conference Big Ten teams. Additionally, having the running game a bit more effective takes the target of McGloin's back and should for Bolden. However, Bolden in reviewing the previous game tapes - is still too single target focused and wants to run too fast - now that could be based on the collapsing O-line but not so much.

    Regarding the stats above - how about the number of dropped passes by recievers in positions where we needed the play? Ohio State is not a team where passes can be dropped. Fact is McGloin is reading the defense quickly and knows where the seams are - only time and practise - at game speed are going to get the group beyond the "drops". The recievers are catching up so the combination is working. As to whether Jay needs to step up with a clear choice at starting QB is in my mind a coaches choice - one which lots will agree and disagree with forever.

    Yes - Bolden should have gotten in more at the end of the Indian game - but Joe has never been much of a "let the other guy in" supporter.

    Summary - this weekend is a time to put it all together - and leadership on the field has to be solid against a top Mich State team.

  14. Josh--No, I would never tear up your comment b/c of typos. See, you're coming into this assuming that I'm a stubborn ass who will personally attack you for petty stuff just because you may have a good point that I don't agree with. You're wrong.

    First off, the Kent comparison is not the first time I've heard this argument from those trying to de-bunk my post. Let me say this, I never said that Kent's was as good as Ohio State's or Iowa's or any of those other ones. But they are a better defense than Michigan's or Indiana's. That's not to say that Kent could beat those teams.

    Second, as for the Red Zone touchdowns or field goals. This is why I wish I wrote 10,000 words oon this topic, because apparently everyone who disagrees with me thinks they can come up with one more aspect of the game that "proves" me wrong. Did you stop and think that the red zone successes of late were due to any of those things I already mentioned? Like the better offensive line, better running game, worse defenses?

  15. By the way... I want to thank everyone for stopping by to chat about this. It may get tense sometimes, but it's all in good fun. This is why I love college football.

  16. Steve--I agree with you that this weekend is McGloin's chance to put it all together. If he has a great game against MSU, then he's proven himself. But he never had to prove himself to me or anyone else. Because remember, this article isn't about any failure on McGloin's part; it's about Bolden.

  17. I agree with you that Rob Bolden has gotten the short end of the stick. The bottom line is that if he does not get the concussion in the Minnesota game, this debate does not even happen. The truth is that Bolden has done nothing to lose the job and I think this is going to come back to bite PSU in the butt in the long term.
    What I don't agree with is the assessment that there will be a fair fight for the starting job in the spring. By ending this season as the starting QB, McGloin will undoubtedly go into next season as the incumbent and Joe's track record regarding the incumbents is well-noted. He has proven in the past that he is all talk and when it comes to game time, he reverts back to his old ways. Consider the whole Devlin/Clark saga. He anointed Clark the starter and played the card they are both good QBs and both will play. As the season wore on, the amount of time that Devlin played was reduced drastically. Devlin did not even enter the Iowa game when Clark was struggling. I think that Paterno's handling of that scenario had more to do with Devlin's leaving than anything else. Now he is doing the same thing with Bolden and McGloin. Bolden won the job at the end of fall practice. Since leaving the Northwestern game at the end of of the first quarter, his only appearances have been token appearances as mop-up man. He was not even inserted into the line-up in the Indiana game when McGloin was struggling in the second quarter. With that said, I would not be surprised to see Bolden potentially look to transfer at the end of the season because even though he is only a freshman, he is not stupid. He can read the papers and he sees the coaching staff say one thing and then on Saturday they do another. Perhaps PSU should bring in someone who can accurately assess and develop a QB and let Jay take a long walk on a short pier.

  18. If Penn State had started McGloin after the Alabama game the Nittany Lions would be 9-2 beating both Iowa and Illinois. McGloin brings confidence and play improves throughout the team. Also he has the knack to complete third down passes and score touchdowns in the red zone something Bolden rarely did. Remember the Northwestern game, Bolden started and did nothing then McGloin came in drove the team down the field in the waning seconds of the first half and scored a touchdown. I knew then he would lead a second half comeback and he did so. Sure give Bolden a few snaps with Penn St. ahead 41-10 with 2 minutes left in the game otherwise no. McGloin if anything gives Paterno new life, one more season as coach with a quarterback who can lead his team to a Big 10 title game/championship and a berth in a BCS bowl game.

  19. "If Penn State had started McGloin after the Alabama game the Nittany Lions would be 9-2 beating both Iowa and Illinois."--Anonymous.

    Um... wow.

  20. I like both guys and think they should be splitting time, but this is an apples and oranges debate and Mike approached it in the most logical way using statistical measures. McGloin didn't see action until after the bye week, which for all intents and purposes allowed many aspects of this team to get solidified: injuries to heal, units to get time to gel together, basics to be revisited. It also had an extended streak against less than stellar defenses. For those that want to cling to receivers dropping McGloin passes that hit them in the hands apparently didn't see the first half of the season and missed the epidemic of stone hands that afflicted receivers while Bolden was under center, making up the majority of his incompletions. For those that think McGloin doesn't lock into receivers, don't pay attention to his forcing balls to Moye in particular. Bolden got 2 series against Northwestern and did more with his time than McGloin did in his more than two series after coming in, he did nothing of note until the last drive of the half. Clearly, both sides choose to be blind to simple facts that aren't convenient to their stance. Both QB's have their weaknesses and to ignore that they should both be playing meaningful time, with playcalling that suits each of their skill sets, and let the hotter hand take the reins as the game progresses.

  21. I am a true fan but believe over-analyzing is epidemic among sports fans and bloggers.

    McGloin looks better out there. More confident. More fiery. More accurate.

    I felt that way about Darryl Clark, too. He was a very good and almost great college football quarterback. He had leadership skills, could run and throw and was tough.

    The real debate between McGloin and Bolden is: Who will be better next year and the year after? It's close, but I'm thinking McGloin, in part because I really like what I see coming in our young running backs.

  22. Anonymous--I'm not sure what you're getting at. You think McGloin will be better, because of the running backs? If the running game is good in 2011, then wouldn't Bolden, Newsome, or Jones benefit just as much from it as McGloin? Also, keep in mind that McGloin has been on campus for 3 seasons already (including 2010). After three full seasons, if he is barely much better than Bolden, wouldn't that suggest that Bolden is the better solution long-term?

  23. I love stats, I would actually make my depth chart up from stats if i was a coach, guess who wouldn't be playing ? Royster, Bolden and Newsome. I dont really care who did better at practice I want to see who did better on the field on gameday. and also whoever made the call to go conservative at the ohio state game wouldn't be making anymore calls for the team next year.

  24. It's hard to compare apples and oranges and subjective feelings, so I'm not going to; even though I am a converted McGloin fan. What I don't get is this future stuff. It's not like McGloin is a senior and Bolden is a freshman. McGloin has two years and Bolden three. If (and I'm not saying it's true) McGloin is better I would play him for his two years. A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. Pryor is still learning and will be still trying for consistency on his last days of college football. You want future? Take Jones, he has 4 years! If we win on Saturday it will go a long way in deciding the question in my opinion.

  25. wow - lots of fire here which is good for this weekend and for next year - I like what teerup mentioned above - stats are just one data point on the players and coaches potential to perform. Bolden had the guts to step up as a freshman and get in the fray at the beginning of the year and that is an intangible as well which jsut shows we have 2-very determined quarterbacks which has help to bring along the rest of team.

    The time off between Michigan State and the Bowl game will help both of them and the coaching staff should develop a game plan for them both contributing.

    Lets get a strong effort for Michigan State first without too much conservative coaching.

  26. Lets get a strong effort for Michigan State first without too much conservative coaching.

    Steve, of all the things said in this discussion I couldn't agree with your statement anymore. Amen.