STATE COLLEGE, Pa. – Matt McGloin paced the sideline with headphones to talk to coaches in the press box, brushing past Rob Bolden while his fellow quarterback rushed to get his helmet to get back in the game.
Until a late flurry, it didn't really matter which quarterback was in the game for No. 23 Penn State.
With Bolden and McGloin alternating for a second straight week, the Penn State offense looked out of sync Saturday in 27-11 loss to third-ranked Alabama at sunny Beaver Stadium.
"Dropped the football, had a chance to make a couple big plays and didn't make them," coach Joe Paterno said. "We certainly deserved a whooping today. I think we've just got a lot of work ahead of us."
A defense that spent more than 34 minutes on the field appeared worn down at the end. The Nittany Lions (1-1) didn't grab a turnover, but gave up three.
But the big question after the game for Penn State was the same that hovered over Beaver Stadium before kickoff: Who's the starting quarterback?
Officially, Bolden took the first series again. He and McGloin combined to go 12 for 39 for 144 yards — though all the yardage was accumulated by Bolden, who was 11 of 29 passing with an interception.
He led the Nittany Lions' only touchdown drive, culminated by Silas Redd's 1-yard plunge with 1:53 left. Bolden also converted a 2-point try on the run, grimacing a bit after appearing to take a shot at the goal line.
Otherwise, though, it was a frustrating day for the Nittany Lions.
"Honestly, we don't have one. I don't know," said disheartened receiver Derek Moye when asked if Penn State had an offensive identity. "We've got to get one."
Paterno remained noncommittal afterward about how he would move forward at quarterback, other than saying he had to look at tapes and talk it over with his staff. He said both Bolden and McGloin each played well.
Stay tuned, as Penn State will play Temple on Saturday in Philadelphia.
On the other side, quarterback A.J. McCarron was poised and efficient in a rare trip to Big Ten country for Alabama, throwing for 163 yards and a touchdown. Alabama completed a sweep of the home-and-home series between the two storied programs with a methodical and smothering performance reminiscent of last year's 24-3 win in Tuscaloosa.
Both teams came into the second week of the season with unsettled quarterback issues. At Alabama (2-0), those appear to be settled.
Playing in front of the largest crowd ever to see an Alabama football game, McCarron was 19 for 31 with no turnovers and a 5-yard touchdown pass through traffic to Michael Williams in the first quarter.
McCarron started the Tide's first game against Kent State but had to share the job with Phillip Sims. This week, he was on his own. He gave coach Nick Saban no reason to make a change until the game was out of reach.
With Paterno coaching from a box way above the field at Beaver Stadium — nursing pelvic and leg injuries from a collision with a player Aug. 7 — there was only one two-time national champion coach on the floor of the stadium.
Saban paced up and down the Crimson Tide's sideline with his headset on, stopping to watch the action with his hands on his hips or knees, before going back to stalking.
At 59 years old, Saban has a 131 victories, 271 behind Paterno's major college record. Saban will never catch up to the 84-year-old Paterno on that list. But he's got a team capable of getting him a third national title this season.
Trent Richardson was workmanlike with 26 carries for 111 yards and two touchdowns, including a 13-yarder with 6:14 left in the fourth that made it 27-3 and cleared much of the 107,846 at Beaver Stadium — save the ones in Crimson.
Led by defensive backs Dre Kirkpatrick and Robert Lester, the Tide defense held Penn State to 251 yards.
At one point in the third quarter, Alabama nearly intercepted five straight Penn State passes. The first two thrown by Bolden were called picks on the field, but did not stand up to video review. Lester couldn't quite keep either from touching the ground. On the next series, McGloin relieved and Alabama defenders got a piece of all three of his throws.
Alabama finally did get an interception that stood on Penn State's next possession when free safety Mark Barron ranged to the sideline and leaped high to get Bolden's underthrown pass.
Alabama improved to 10-5 against Penn State and snapped the Nittany Lions' 23-game winning streak in nonconference home games.