Bolden’s career changed forever on one pivotal day

Posted by on May 22, 2012

Oct. 23, 2010 _  it’s the date that Rob Bolden’s Penn State football career changed



Before that date, Bolden was a promising young quarterback blessed with size,

intelligence, a strong right arm, poise and confidence.


After that date, Bolden’s size, intelligence and right arm remained intact. But the

poise and confidence he displayed while shockingly earning the Nittany Lions’

starting QB job as a true freshman were gone.


What happened?


No one may know for sure  maybe not even Bolden.


The simple answer is that on Oct. 23, 2010, Bolden suffered a concussion

while enjoying an apparent breakout performance at Minnesota. In less than a

half that day, Bolden was 11-for-13 (84.6 percent) for 130 yards with one

touchdown and zero interceptions. His QB rating that afternoon was a staggering



Bolden’s numbers before the concussion were solid for a seasoned QB, much less

a true freshman. Before the injury, he was 107-for-184 (58.2 percent) for 1,307

yards with five touchdown passes and seven interceptions. His NCAA QB rating

was 119.2.


After the concussion he saw only limited action in the rest of 2010, throwing just

nine passes. Matt McGloin took over the starting QB job and played well at times.

Bolden, meanwhile, didn’t play at all in the regular-season finale against Michigan

State, nor the bowl game against Florida, even though McGloin threw five

interceptions in a 37-24 loss to the Gators.


That national snub angered Bolden and his father, leading to a transfer request.

But Head Coach Joe Paterno famously refused to release Bolden because it would

have left the Lions dangerously thin at the QB position. Bolden reluctantly

returned to Happy Valley for the 2011 season.


Unfortunately, in 2011, a completely different Bolden emerged. He appeared

tentative and confused  a far cry from the poised, confident freshman.

That clearly showed up in his numbers. Bolden finished 2011 going 53-for-135

(39.3 percent) for 685 yards with two TD passes and seven interceptions. His

QB rating was a dismal 76.4.


Still, Bolden remained on the PSU roster this spring, hoping to impress new head

coach Bill O’Brien  a man who coached the legendary Tom Brady and with a

reputation as QB guru. In the Blue-White Game, however, Bolden continued to

struggle, going 7-for-14 for 78 yards with three picks and zero TDs.


Now, according to multiple reports over the weekend, Bolden is no longer

working out with the PSU team and plans to transfer. However, another report

from the Centre Daily Times on Tuesday indicated that Bolden would stay at PSU.

If Bolden does ultimately decide to transfer this summer, it’s unlikely that the PSU

head coach would do anything to stop him this time.


Even if Bolden stays, it’s unlikely he’ll see signifcant playing time in 2012. In fact,

O’Brien has announced he’ll likely name his starting QB for 2012 by the end of the

month, and it’s expected that McGloin will be his choice. It also appears that

talented Paul Jones has overcome his academic woes and passed Bolden in the

QB pecking order at Happy Valley.


PSU also has recruited two promising young QBs, with one arriving this summer

(Steven Bench) and one arriving in 2013 (Christian Hackenberg).


PSU is no longer thin at QB, and a Bolden transfer seems in the best interests of

both Bolden and Penn State.


Maybe a change of scenery, and coaches, would allow Bolden to recapture the

potential he showed during his freshman season.


Still, it’s stunning how one day and one injury can seemingly change the playing

fortunes of a young man who appeared destined to become one of the great QBs

in PSU history.


Nittany Nation is still searching for answers on how it could have gone so bad, so



Was the concussion more serious than first thought?


Did the PSU coaches, especially QB Coach Jay Paterno and Head Coach Joe

Paterno, badly mishandle Bolden, crushing his confidence?


Was Bolden overrated to begin with, compiling his most impressive numbers in

2010 against overmatched foes?


Was there something else at play?


Was it a combination of all of the above?


The answers remain elusive.


There is only one certainty.


On Oct. 23, 2010, Rob Bolden’s football career changed forever.


Steve Heiser is sports editor of The York Dispatch. He can be reached at or at 854-1575, ext. 455. 

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