McGloin Mojo Headed to Columbus

Can Penn State's redshirt sophomore quarterback maintain his hot hand against one of the nation's best defenses? He thinks so.

Everybody loves an underdog story. Except, it appears, for the underdog himself.

Asked about his own tale, Penn State quarterback Matt McGloin -- the one-time walk-on who has played a pivotal role in the Nittany Lions' three-game winning streak -- said Wednesday that “it's not too fun to tell.”

Not anymore. Not after telling it again and again and again.

“Everybody knows my story,” he said during a conference call with reporters. “It kind of gets annoying (to repeat it). I guess people see it as a good story.”

And, he added, “Hopefully Saturday I can continue to add to it.”

He makes his second career start then, in no less a place than Columbus, Ohio, as PSU (6-3) faces eighth-ranked Ohio State (8-1).

And McGloin, a redshirt sophomore from West Scranton High, is feeling as feisty as ever. He said it was “just ridiculous” that the Buckeyes had been installed as 17-point favorites, and added that the Lions are “definitely going to be able to move the ball;” it just comes down to whether they can finish as well in the red zone as they have in recent weeks.

“He has a lot of confidence,” wide receiver Derek Moye said, “and it kind of rubs off on us.”

But the McGloin Mojo is going to run headlong into Ohio State's Horseshoe Hegemony. The Buckeyes have won seven of eight home meetings with the Lions since Penn State joined the Big Ten, and PSU has not scored more than one touchdown in any of those games. The average score, in fact, is 25-8 -- interestingly, a 17-point difference.

And McGloin will be facing an Ohio State team that leads the conference in scoring defense (13.6 points per game), rushing defense (84.0 yards per game), passing defense (150.2), total defense (234.2) and pass-efficiency defense (94.9 rating). The Buckeyes are third in the nation in every one of those categories but rushing defense, in which they are fourth.

OSU has also forced a conference-leading 24 turnovers, including 15 interceptions; that's also tops.

But McGloin is clearly riding a crest now, having awakened a team that seemed headed for disaster after that 33-13 home loss to Illinois on Oct. 9.

“I guess,” he said, “I bring a little something different to the table, and the guys feed off that.”

He came off the bench after freshman Rob Bolden, the team's starting QB the first seven games, suffered a concussion at Minnesota Oct. 23, throwing the first two touchdown passes of his career to spark PSU to a 33-21 victory.

He made his first start a week later, against Michigan, throwing for one score and running for another in a 41-31 victory. And afterward he told an ESPN sideline reporter he was “gunning for” Kirk Herbstreit, one of the four-letter network's studio analysts. Seems that Herbstreit had picked against PSU in the game, saying they would have a hard time moving the ball with a guy like McGloin at the controls.

Bolden returned as the starter last week against Northwestern, only to be replaced by McGloin after two possessions.

“I was kind of shocked at first,” McGloin said. “I didn't think I'd be in that early.”

The whole team played as if in shock for the better part of a half, falling into a 21-0 hole. But McGloin led the Lions on a 91-yard touchdown drive in the final minute of the second quarter, and PSU scored on its first four possessions of the second half as well, en route to a 35-21 victory. McGloin fired four TD passes in all, helping to make Joe Paterno the first major college coach to win 400 games.

On Tuesday McGloin sat down for a face-to-face interview with Herbstreit -- who, by the way, is a former Ohio State quarterback. No hard feelings, though. McGloin said Wednesday that Herbstreit is “a great guy” and that he had always been “a big fan” of his work. So when they taped the interview, they had “a little fun with it,” according to the QB.

Another topic of conversation this week is the quarterback on the other sideline, Terrelle Pryor, who is from Jeannette High, in western Pennsylvania. He and McGloin came were being recruited the same year, and Penn State made a fruitless run at Pryor.

“Everybody was following what he was doing,” McGloin said. “A couple guys, including myself, didn't get offers because of him. (Schools) were waiting to see what he was doing. … Terrelle Pryor made things confusing for a lot of people.”

That has no bearing on McGloin's approach to Saturday's game -- “I'm not focusing on (Pryor),” he said -- but had a huge impact on him three years ago. While some big schools put out feelers, his best scholarship offers came from the likes of Lafayette and Lehigh. Ultimately McGloin chose to come to Penn State as a preferred walk-on because he wanted to play, as he said Wednesday, “on a big stage.'

But for two years he was an understudy.

“I knew my time would come,” he said. “Whether it was this year, next year or the following year, I knew my time would come.”

And now it has, and everyone wants to talk about it.

Except, maybe, for him.

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