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Penn State Football: At Quarterback, Matt McGloin is The Last Lion Standing

by on October 05, 2012 5:30 AM

For an improving Penn State squad that hosts Northwestern on Saturday, Matt McGloin is the most uncommon of common denominators. At least in retrospect.

Over the past half-decade, Nittany Lion quarterbacks have come and Nittany Lion quarterbacks have gone, gone, gone, gone. Yet McGloin remains.

And along the way, he’s been neither shy nor retiring about it.

But now, with just seven games left in a career that has spanned almost five years and exactly 618 passes, McGloin is The Last Lion Standing. At quarterback, anyway.

McGloin came to the University Park campus in the fall of 2008, on a 148-mile trip down Route 80. It wasn’t his first choice. Notre Dame, his favorite team as a kid and beyond, never gave him a look.

When I first heard the story, McGloin punctuated the tale of the Fighting Irish sleight with a short, self-effacing snort, like, "Shocking, isn't it?"

Lehigh did come calling. The red-head from Scranton was this close to engineering drives in Bethlehem, where his brother John played varsity baseball. But it just didn’t quite work out. So he talked his folks, Paul and Cathy, into paying the freight to go to Penn State, sans scholarship.

McGloin spent that first season as the scout team quarterback, and before the year was even over he saw Pat Devlin leave town. Gone, in glacial then in relative tsunami-like fashion, were quarterbacks Kevin Newsome, Rob Bolden and Paul Jones.

You can also throw in – or throw out -- a former Wildcat QB, Curtis Drake, who scuffled with McGloin last December but was ultimately TKO’d out of the program by first-year coach Bill O’Brien. McGloin is on his third head coach, second quarterback coach and – acknowledging that Galen Hall and Jay Paterno shared the play-calling in the past – third offensive coordinator.

Get this: Matt McGloin has been the constant. And consistently so.

Since The Outing at The Outback, when he tossed five interceptions against Florida on Jan. 1, 2011, McGloin has thrown 401 passes. Only seven have been intercepted. Eighteen have been for touchdowns.

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Overall, the man who was once called McPick is now one of the top TD-to-interception passers in Penn State history. Not that he doesn’t lapse into Favritis on occasion, but O’Brien has been, for the most part, The Great Inoculator.

On the all-time passing charts, just two Penn State quarterbacks have a better passing ratio than McGloin, who has thrown 32 touchdown passes against 16 interceptions. Only Daryll Clark (43-16) and Tom Shuman (28-12) have done better, while Mike McQueary (22-11) is even with McGloin. (Among the worst: Todd Blackledge (41 TD passes, 41 picks), Zack Mills (41-39), Heisman Trophy runner-up Chuck Fusina (37-32) and John Shaffer (18-24). Both Blackledge and Shaffer, of course, quarterbacked PSU to national titles.)

It hasn’t been easy – on McGloin or, early on, the Penn State fans. Here’s how his Penn State career has gone. He started five games in 2010. He started five games in 2011. And he’s started five games in 2012. Finally, sanity has prevailed.

Still, remarkably, McGloin will need the game on Saturday to equal the career starts of Bolden. I’m not a Matty Come Lately. I called for McGloin to be the starter the Sunday after the 2010 Michigan game in Beaver Stadium, when Penn State won handily, 41-31.

That was, literally, a lifetime ago.

Northwestern is a touchstone of sorts for McGloin. On Oct. 30, 2010, he came off the bench and engineered five straight scoring drives to overcome a 21-0 Northwestern lead and give Joe Paterno his 400th victory. That was McGloin’s gift to the coach who gave him his scholarship.

On Oct. 22, 2011, against Northwestern in Evanston, Ill., McGloin was finally given his first start of the year, eight games into the season. He responded by directing six consecutive scoring drives, then holding on for a 34-24 win. That was his gift to his teammates, for sticking by him.

Both games, McGloin had something to prove. And he did.

In those two games, McGloin completed 35 of 55 for 417 yards, with no interceptions and six touchdown passes. The scoring strikes were to six different receivers, only one of whom is still on the team – Nate Cadogan, an offensive tackle, who caught a three-yard TD pass in 2010, the only catch of his career. The other five: Brett Brackett (7 yards, 2010), Derek Moye (36, 2010), Evan Royster (13, 2010), Justin Brown (4, 2011) and Devon Smith (45, 2011).

Matt McGloin. The one constant.

McGloin has directed 19 drives against Northwestern, producing points in 11 of them. Penn State scored on five straight drives in 2010, and on six consecutive drives in 2011. Nine were for touchdowns, two for field goals, and the average drive covered 60 yards in seven plays and lasted just 2 minutes and 27 seconds.

Of course, those numbers won’t help McGloin a bit on Saturday.

What’s past is prologue, this year more than most. Or any, for that matter. Besides, Northwestern is 5-0, ranked No. 24 and has a point-scoring offense the likes of which O’Brien has seen before. Daily on the practice field in Foxboro.

Penn State, as O’Brien has constantly reminded his players on his new practice field this week, has beaten Navy, Temple and Illinois. O’Brien punctuated those reminders with colorful adjectives and a raised hand, slowly ticking off the three wins with just a touch of sarcasm.

It’s no joke, though, to marvel a bit at what McGloin has gone through and appreciate his current success. Through the cheers and jeers, and jeers, he’s been resolute. If not, at times, a pain in the ass.

Speaking of which, about McGloin and his journey:

Darn near wrecked ’em? Not even close.

Recent Columns:

Penn State Football: Fuhrman Doesn’t Fumble Chance After 20-Year, 54-Game Wait - Oct. 2, 2012

Penn State: Chuck Norris, Mitt Romney and Kim Kardashian All Love … Michael Mauti - Sept. 29, 2012

Mike Poorman has covered Penn State football since 1979, and for since the 2009 season. His column appears on Mondays and Fridays. Follow him on Twitter at His views and opinions do not necessarily reflect those of Penn State University.
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