UNIVERSITY PARK - He prefers to be called Rob, just one of many things almost no one knew about the Michigan kid with a cannon arm and remarkable confidence for an 18-year-old.
Rob Bolden is so confident that he chose to come to Penn State knowing that Kevin Newsome was already there, and that prized recruit Paul Jones already had committed, too.
Sentinel photo by CHRISTOPHER?SHANNON
Penn State's Chaz Powell races down the sideline on the way to a 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown to open the second half of the Nittany Lions' 44-14 season opening triumph over the Youngstown State Penguins Saturday afternoon in Beaver Stadium at University Park.
Everyone saw why Saturday afternoon.
"In a couple of years, he's going to break every passing record here," Nittany Lion running back Stephfon Green said. "The kid is good."
Only PSU's coaching staff knew exactly how good before Saturday. Then Bolden went out and played with poise, showed off his strong arm and good footwork and looked like anything but a true freshman in his first college game.
Bolden completed 20-of-29 passes for 239 yards and two touchdowns to lead No. 19 Penn State to a 44-14 victory over Division I-AA Youngstown State before 101,213 fans at Beaver Stadium.
No, the competition wasn't great.
Yes, Alabama might make Bolden look bad next week.
But in his debut, Bolden showed enough good qualities to believe that he could be a four-year starter and lead the Lion offense to big things. The fact that he was the first true freshman ever to start a season opener under Joe Paterno was a non-factor.
"You hear about [freshmen starting] at other schools, but it's kind of out of character for Penn State," receiver Derek Moye said. "But when I saw him in person, I knew he had a shot of playing a lot this year."
Bolden threw one interception, but that wasn't his fault as Moye either fell or was pulled down by Penguins defender David Rach.
The Lions started the game conservatively and tried pounding their running game, but that didn't work. They gained only 132 yards on 29 carries.
As the game moved on, the coaches let Bolden do more and more. He handled each progression well, checking off receivers and finding his favorite target, Brett Brackett, eight times for 98 yards and two touchdowns.
"He showed above and beyond what we expected with his poise and confidence," said Brackett, who caught only three passes all last season.
Penn State found itself trailing, 7-3, when Dominique Barnes took a screen pass 80 yards for a touchdown with 2:09 left in the first quarter.
"We fell asleep," said PSU defensive coordinator Tom Bradley, who noted the defenders overpursued and didn't fill their lanes.
Collin Wagner kicked three field goals in the first half - all at least 44 yards - and Bolden found Brackett from 20 yards out for a 16-7 halftime lead.
The Lions blew things open in a hurry in the third quarter, starting with Chaz Powell returning the kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown. Bolden later hit Brackett on a 22-yard TD pass with 8:56 left in the third to make it 30-7.
Green scored from 6 yards, and backup quarterback Kevin Newsome did the same in the fourth quarter. Newsome did not enter the game until the 10:07 mark of the fourth quarter, didn't throw a pass and carried three times for 21 yards.
Matt McGloin, the third starting quarterback candidate, came in for only the final play of the game and handed off.
"Joe led several discussions," quarterbacks coach Jay Paterno said of the decision to start Bolden. "Several times he called [the assistants] in and said let's talk about this. And he talked to the offensive coaches and talked to the defensive coaches about what they were seeing from their side of the ball.
"And basically it came down to where we all, everybody was in agreement with what we need to do. There were no issues there whatsoever. Joe went around the room, and everybody had the same answer. Once that happened, I think he felt comfortable."
Contrary to JayPa's comments, there was a report last week that some of the assistants were in Newsome's camp to start.
"That was not the case in the meetings that Joe led," JayPa said. "I'm not going to get into who said what; I'm not going to get into that, but there was no question. ... Best way to tell you that is it's not accurate."
Based on what Bolden showed Saturday, it would appear he would be the starter for some time. That's not necessarily the case, though, according to Joe Paterno.
"We are going to play it week by week, practice by practice," JoePa said.