University Park, Pa. — It was a day to remember for freshman quarterback Rob Bolden and Nittany Nation as Penn State opened its 124th season.
Bolden delivered a record-setting performance, leading No. 19/14 Penn State to a 44-14 win over Youngstown State. The Orchard Lake, Mich. product was 20 of 29 for 239 yards and two touchdowns to Brett Brackett to deliver the best passing performance by a Nittany Lion true freshman starter in program history.
Bolden was the first Penn State true freshman quarterback to start a game since Wally Richardson vs. Temple in 1992 and he directed the Nittany Lions to their 38th season opening win in Joe Paterno's 45 seasons as head coach. Both of his touchdown passes went to senior co-captain Brackett, who broke his career-highs with eight catches for 98 yards.
For photos from the game, click here.
The Nittany Lion defense delivered another stellar performance, limiting YSU to 75 yards on 34 carries, as the Penguins became the 17th straight Penn State foe to not have a 100-yard rusher.
The Nittany Lions improved to 103-19-2 (83.1) in season openers, winning their last nine and 18 of the last 20. Penn State improved to 111-12-1 in home openers overall and has won 34 of its last 38 games in Beaver Stadium, which is celebrating its 50th Anniversary season.
Joe Paterno upped his career record to 395-129-3. He also coached in his 680th career game as a member of the Penn State coaching staff and his 527th as head coach.
Senior placekicker Collin Wagner had a big day, connecting on a field goals of 44, 49 and 48 yards. His 49-yarder in the second quarter was a career-long, surpassing his 47-yard effort in the win over Minnesota last year.
Junior Chaz Powell took the second half kickoff for a 100-yard to jolt the Beaver Stadium throng and push Penn State's lead to 23-7. The kickoff return for a touchdown was Penn State's first since Derrick Williams took a kick back 94 yards for a score versus Illinois in 2008. Penn State's last 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown had been in 1975 by Rich Mauti at Temple. Mauti is the father of current Nittany Lion linebacker Mike Mauti and former Lion wide receiver Patrick Mauti.
Brackett's leaping 22-yard touchdown reception in the third quarter was a career long, topping his previous best of 20 yards vs. Temple in 2008, and gave Penn State a 30-7 lead.
Evan Royster gained 40 yards rushing in limited duty, giving him 2,958 for his career to pass Lydell Mitchell and Larry Johnson and move into sixth place on the Penn State career rushing list. Royster is 42 yards shy of the 3,000-yard plateau and needs 441 yards to pass Curt Warner as Penn State's career leading rusher.
Making his first career start, senior middle linebacker Chris Colasanti recorded a career-best 13 tackles. His previous best was six, set versus Eastern Illinois in 2009. Senior linebacker Bani Gbadyu had a career-best eight tackles, topping his former high of seven, set against Iowa in 2009. Senior co-captain Ollie Ogbu tied a career high with six tackles and Nate Stupar's 1.5 tackles for losses were a career high. His quarterback sack in the second half was the second of his career.
Wagner opened the scoring with a 44-yard field goal with 3:58 left in the first quarter. Dominique Blake then took a screen pass 80 yards to five YSU a 7-3 lead later in the period. The last time the Penn State defense had allowed an 80-yard reception was in 2003 when Michigan State's Jeff Smoker connected on a scoring strike with Kyle Brown.
Wagner's career-best 49-yard field goal early in the second quarter cut the lead to 7-6. The Nittany Lions took the lead for good when Brackett hauled in a 20-yard strike over the middle for Bolden's first career touchdown pass and a 13-7 lead with 1:30 left in the half. Bolden then connected twice with Derek Moye (5-61) to get the Lions in position for a 48-yard field goal by Wagner on the final play of the half.
Seven Nittany Lions made their first career starts: linebacker Chris Colasanti, receiver Devon Smith, tight end Garry Gilliam, quarterback Rob Bolden, center Doug Klopacz, left tackle Quinn Barham and punter Anthony Fera.
The Nittany Lions upped their non-conference record to 62-12 since joining the Big Ten in 1993 and has won 16 of their last 17 non-conference games, with USC in the 2009 Rose Bowl as the lone setback.
Penn State will travel to face No. 1 Alabama on Saturday, Sept. 11 in the first meeting between the national powers since 1990. Kickoff is set for 7:00 p.m. ET/6:00 p.m. CT at Bryant-Denny Stadium. The Crimson Tide lead the series, 8-5.