UNIVERSITY PARK (AP) - The offense is struggling and the kicking game is a mess in Happy Valley.
Luckily for coach Joe Paterno, the defense is in good shape at Penn State.
So while Paterno continues to work out the kinks with the Nittany Lions' two-quarterback system, the defense is watching the offense's back.
"If you want to be a good team, sometimes you have to pick each other up," linebacker Michael Mauti said. "The offense is having a tough time. We'll have to bail them out sometimes ... and the same thing with us."
It's more like the other way around lately.
The Nittany Lions (2-1) showed a little improvement moving the ball last week against Temple, yet still escaped with just a 14-10 victory after scoring with 2:42 left. Through three games, Penn State is last in the Big Ten in scoring (22 points per game), total offense (306 yards) and passing (158 yards).
All with Rob Bolden and Matt McGloin sharing the quarterback position.
Paterno has repeatedly said that he prefers to stick with one quarterback.
On the other hand, he's also said he wants to be fair to both Bolden and McGloin.
"I don't know what I'm waiting for. I think both those kids are so close and both those kids deserve to play," said Paterno, major college football's winningest coach with 403 victories. "One of these days I would like to be able to say, 'Hey, we are going to play one quarterback.'"
Just not Saturday against Eastern Michigan (2-1), apparently.
For the fourth straight week, Bolden and McGloin are both atop the quarterback depth chart. Together they are a combined 46 of 95 passing (48 percent) for 474 yards and two interceptions. Penn State is the only Big Ten team without a passing touchdown.
The so-called "Spread HD" offense that succeeded under run-pass threat Daryll Clark in 2008-9 has grounded to a halt.
The Nittany Lions promise they are working hard to get things going. Receiver Justin Brown said the offense's confidence is improved, especially after making two 4th-down plays late against Temple to set up fullback Michael Zordich's game-winning 1-yard touchdown run.
Fellow receiver Derek Moye, who had a career-high seven catches for 112 yards against the Owls, said Penn State is working on fixing blown assignments and mental mistakes. He had a long touchdown reception called back by a penalty last week.
Moye would prefer the coaches stick with one quarterback, though he said he trusts their decision if they feel neither candidate has created separation.
The QB quandary is just as hot a topic on campus as it is in the press box.
"I wouldn't say it's frustrating. It definitely can be annoying sometimes," Moye said Wednesday. "It's the main theme, and sometimes the only thing people want to ask. It's always about the quarterback controversy."
There's also the issue of finishing drives. Inconsistency at the quarterback position can sometimes be glossed over with a good kicking game, which is absent at Penn State. The Nittany Lions are a Big Ten-worst 1 of 6 (16 percent) on field goals, with duties shared by freshman Sam Ficken and junior Evan Lewis, a former receiver.
Penn State also had a punt blocked last week. Strong-legged punter and kickoff specialist Anthony Fera could be an option on field goals, though Fera primarily punted last season. He's also crawling out of Paterno's doghouse following off-field issues this year.
Fera, a redshirt sophomore, was a highly-rated kicker out of high school in Texas in 2009.
"Our kicking game needs to get better. And we're working on it and hopefully we can improve," Paterno said. "But the proof is in the pudding."
The upside in Happy Valley is the defense, spearheaded up front by disruptive tackles Devon Still and Jordan Hill, with an active linebacking corps and a veteran secondary. The defense has heeded Paterno's plea for more key plays with six turnovers over the first three games.
But no one is pointing fingers on the squad for the early-season struggles, defensive end Jack Crawford said.
"There's never any blame. We're a very close team. ... We don't point fingers," Crawford said. "We know it's a team thing. If (the offense) doesn't score a touchdown that reflects on us, too."