McGloin leads Penn State over Northwestern
UNIVERSITY PARK — One of the few times he showed indecision during a transcendent fourth quarter came at the end of a game-changing run.
Matt McGloin seemed to waffle between diving or jumping into the south end zone at Beaver Stadium, and it resulted in an awkward cross between the two.
McGloin didn't stick his landing, but he again stuck it to the team he loves to torment.
McGloin threw for 282 yards and accounted for three scores as Penn State beat No. 24 Northwestern, 39-28, in front of 95,769.
McGloin rallied Penn State from a double-digit deficit for the second time in three years against Northwestern and improved to 3-0 against the Wildcats.
The Scranton native completed a career-high 35 passes, and he went 13 of 15 in the fourth quarter when he coolly directed two long scoring drives that allowed Penn State to hand Northwestern (5-1, 1-1 in the Big Ten) its first loss of the season.
Penn State ran its winning streak to four games and takes a 4-2 record (2-0 in the Big Ten) into its off week. The Nittany Lions return Oct. 20 at Iowa, and the Hawkeyes have to hope the layoff has an adverse effect on an offense that executed at a high level when Penn State needed it most.
The Nittany Lions were trailing, 28-17, before McGloin engineered touchdown drives that covered 82 and 85 yards and consumed most of the fourth quarter.
“He's grown up a lot,” Penn State coach Bill O'Brien said. “I can't say enough about Matt McGloin.”
The feeling is mutual at the halfway point of O'Brien's first season at Penn State, and it is easy to see why the fiery Irishman from Boston and the fiery former walk-on signal caller are so compatible.
O'Brien seems to stress over going for it on fourth down as much as he does picking which pair of socks to wear, and nobody loves that approach more than the swashbuckling McGloin.
“I'm a firm believer in you get four downs for a reason,” McGloin said. “That's one of the biggest reasons we won the game. We were going on fourth down, and don't be surprised if we do it the rest of the year.”
Penn State already has gone for it on fourth down more times through six games than it did all of last season. McGloin's command of the offense is one reason O'Brien has gone for it 20 times in such situations.
It is also why Penn State converted five of six times against a Wildcats team that turned a couple of special-teams blunders into 14 points but wore down in the fourth quarter.
McGloin threw a 6-yard touchdown pass to Allen Robinson on fourth down five minutes into the fourth quarter. Just as impressive was his 13-yard toss to Brandon Moseby-Felder on fourth down later in the quarter. McGloin extended the play that Northwestern's defense looked like it had sniffed out and bought just enough time for Moseby-Felder to shake free.
Three plays later, McGloin evaded a stunting Wildcats lineman and won a footrace to the corner of the end zone, only hesitating after it became clear he would score on a 5-yard run.
“I was unsure of what to do there,” McGloin said with a smile, “so I just decided to dive, but my knee brace unfortunately got caught in the ground.”
O'Brien offered a different take on McGloin's fifth rushing touchdown of the season.
“Now he's going to come in Monday and tell me he's a 4.3 (in the 40-yard dash),” O'Brien said. “I'm going to tell him we're timing his 40 with a sun dial. He's fun to coach. I love coaching competitive people, and he's a very competitive guy.”
Scott Brown is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.