UNIVERSITY PARK — These are nervous times for Joe Paterno and the Penn State Nittany Lions.
They're at the midway point of what so far has been an underwhelming 3-3 season and waiting for their midseason grades from the Ol' Perfesser, Paterno's roommate at Brown.
Ol' Joe expected his guys to struggle early this semester, but he didn't expect them to perform so miserably.
"We just can't go the way we're going," Paterno said after a 33-13 debacle at the hands of Illinois last week. "We're not making any progress. I thought by this stage we'd be a pretty good football team. We're not getting any better. That's the discouraging part."
The offense ranks last in the Big Ten in scoring and total offense and 10th in rushing. The problems begin with the offensive line, which was unable to open running room against Alabama, Iowa and Illinois.
Freshman quarterback Rob Bolden played the worst game of his brief career against Illinois, but he has a ton of potential. He needs help from his coaches, who got away from the short passing that worked at the start of the third quarter against Iowa.
The read option that Penn State used with Michael Robinson in 2005 to escape the program's Dark Ages might be effective. It might take some pressure off the line and help the off ense produce.
"When you lose, you can point fingers at everybody else," Paterno said. "We (he and his coaches) probably could have done a better job somewhere along the line."
Now injuries have decimated the defense, the foundation of the team for the last seven seasons. Penn State lost safety Nick Sukay (pectoral muscle) for the season, and eight others on defense were dealing with injuries going into the bye week.