Penn State Football: Quarterbacks Matt McGloin, Braxton Miller Each Bring Own Dual-Threat Definition to Saturday's Showdown
Few should be surprised two of the Big Ten’s remaining unbeaten teams in conference play employ two of the best quarterbacks in the league.
Penn State’s Matt McGloin and Ohio State’s Braxton Miller are major reasons why both schools sit atop the Leaders Division, and both were mentioned by reporters Tuesday at Bill O’Brien’s weekly press conference.
So was Steven Bench, the freshman backup to McGloin.
Miller and McGloin are probably the two best quarterbacks in the Big Ten right now, and both figure to play a prominent role in Saturday night’s showdown at Beaver Stadium. O’Brien called Miller the best among the running quarterbacks his team has faced to date, and he’s making sure his team knows one of the keys to a PSU victory will be containing him.
“We're not going to shut this guy down totally,” O’Brien said.
He added: “One of the keys to the game is to do the best we can to contain him and tackle him. And at the end of the day he's going to make plays. And when he makes a play, we have to play the next play. We have to keep him out of the end zone the best we can. And we've got to make sure that we know, look, the guy's going to make some plays, let's make sure we limit that and get ready to not dwell on the big play that he just made and try to play the next play.”
Miller left Saturday’s game against Purdue and was taken to the hospital. He was medically cleared to practice this week, but his neck, coach Urban Meyer said Monday, is still very sore. Miller practiced Tuesday and is expected to play.
McGloin a Dual Threat, Too
Miller has rushed for at least 130 yards in five of his team’s eight games. He’s 41 yards shy of reaching the 1,000-yard mark this season and is a true dual threat in the traditional vernacular.
When a reporter opened his question to O’Brien on Tuesday stating McGloin is not a dual-threat quarterback, O’Brien cut him off.
“What are you talking about? Were you at the Northwestern game?” O’Brien quipped, in reference to a broken play where McGloin swooped around the right side and made an awkward dive over the pylon for the game-winning touchdown.
Then O’Brien got serious.
“People use that label "dual threat", and so I always use the example of Tom Brady,” he said. “And so one of the best qualities of Tom Brady is his feet in the pocket. And that he understands that it's about a three foot circle in the pocket that he can move in. And he's got great pocket awareness.
“What we've tried to do with Matt is teach him about pocket awareness. And Matt's done a good job of that.
“He's climbed the pocket when he's supposed to. He's moved ever so slightly when he's supposed to. And the number one thing for a quarterback is to be able to do that and keep your eyes downfield and complete the ball and not see the rush.
“You gotta feel the rush, not see it, move with your feet, redirect your eyes with your feet is the phrase we use and get the ball down the field. And I think Matt's done a decent job of that, and hopefully he can continue to do that.”
McGloin has gotten some ribbing for the touchdown dive against Northwestern, which ended with him doing an impersonation of the Discount Double Check made famous by Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
Though his mobility is an asset, it’s not McGloin’s strength. Using it to extend a play or maneuver around the pocket is where it comes in handy.
"We mess around with him and say he's not that athletic, but he's very good at getting away from the pocket,” fullback Mike Zordich said. “He avoids sacks, spins out, gets what he can. I wouldn't go as far as calling him an athlete, but I'll give him credit for that.”
Keeping Bench Benched
The opportunity was there Saturday for freshman backup quarterback Steven Bench to take some game reps.
O’Brien, however, thought otherwise, despite Penn State leading 38-7 in the fourth quarter.
“I guess you can disagree with me, I don't really care,” O’Brien said Tuesday. “I felt the game was not really in hand like everybody else thought. I felt like Iowa was still in the game. Maybe I could have gotten Steven in.”
Bench has seen limited action this year, attempting seven passes when he was thrust into action Sept. 8 at Virginia after McGloin briefly left the game with an elbow injury.
The freshman from Cairo, Ga., is the only returning scholarship quarterback expected to be on the roster in the spring.