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Penn State Football: Matt McGloin Reaping the Benefits of Quarterback Coaching

by on September 24, 2012 11:46 AM

Charlie Fisher heard the stories about his quarterback before he really got to work with the fifth-year senior. Stubborn, sure. The Irish temper, uh-huh. But there was reluctance from Fisher, Penn State’s first-year quarterbacks coach, to prejudge Matt McGloin until he got entrenched with his latest project. There is always circumstantial evidence behind a player’s development, and it takes little time to read between the lines to figure out what’s helped McGloin excel in his third year under center.

“Not sharing the job allows you to stay relaxed out there,” McGloin has said. “You don’t force things as much. Having the whole team and the coaching staff behind you, it allows you to prepare more and play more loosely.”

Head coach Bill O’Brien named McGloin his starting quarterback in June, a decision predicated on maximizing first-team repetitions in a new offense littered with foreign terminology. But the position now demands so much more than that. The great players come to practice every day ready to work, setting the tone for practice and hoping it rubs off on everybody else. O’Brien saw it first-hand with Tom Brady. Fisher saw it with Torry Holt at NC State when he coached the wide receivers. And he's seeing it from No. 11.

“All the great ones wanna be coached,” Fisher said. “The great ones, they crave that. They wanna be challenged, and I think Matt has got a good, sharp mind, and he likes being challenged mentally, and this offense challenges him mentally.”

McGloin is starting fast, completing nearly 73 percent of his passes and tossing five touchdowns in the first quarter for a 188.7 quarterback rating. Last season, McGloin completed less than 50 percent of his first quarter throws. The key difference, McGloin has said, is that he doesn’t feel an urgency to make plays out of fear of being benched.

There hasn't been nearly the amount of risk-taking by McGloin in this short season. He has not totally eviscerated this from his game. Exhibit A rests on a 3rd-and-7 on the opening drive of the fourth quarter. Penn State had possession on its own 40-yard line and led 21-6 when McGloin rolled right and then forced a throw back across the middle of the field toward Alex Kenney, who had two Temple defenders all over him. It was more likely to be intercepted than caught, but alas, incomplete. Punt. Defense holds. Onward State.

“You don’t have to win it on one play,” Fisher said. “You can lose it, though.”

Fisher called it McGloin’s poorest decision of the day, but here's the difference in McGloin from years' past. It was only one play. He responded on the next possession and drove the team down to the Temple 3-yard line for a field goal that put the team’s second straight victory on ice.

“In the past when we first got here, he would’ve gotten really mad at himself,” Fisher said. “He would’ve emotionally gotten much more upset about the whole situation.”

And how does Fisher handle those errant, unnecessary throws that can swing a game?

“If you expect your quarterback to keep your poise,” Fisher said, “then you gotta keep your poise.”

When O’Brien inherited George Godsey at Georgia Tech for his senior season, he set school records for completions (249), attempts (384) and yards (3,085 yards) in a season. Through four games, McGloin has thrown for 1,006 yards, nine touchdowns and is completing nearly 60 percent of his passes. He is on pace to break Daryll Clark’s three-year-old record for passing yards in a season (3,003 yards) and finish with more than 6,100 career passing yards, which would rank second all-time in school history behind the 7,212 yards Zack Mills threw for from 2001-04. McGloin is on pace for 868 career attempts, and Mills had 1,082.

“He’s a fun guy to coach because he’s a smart guy,” O’Brien said. “He gets it after you tell him once. He’s competitive and he can keep his poise, sometimes better than I can, and that’s a good decision on his part.”

One of many in a charmed season for the former walk-on from Scranton.

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Nate Mink covers Penn State football and news for StateCollege.com. He's on Twitter as @MinkNate.
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