MINNEAPOLIS -- Penn State quarterback Matt McGloin has had his share of skeptics since he enrolled as a preferred walk-on in 2008.
Even after he was rewarded with a scholarship last season, few figured he would never make it onto the field. McGloin redshirted as a freshman, then attempted just two passes in 2009 while sitting behind starter Daryll Clark and backup Kevin Newsome.
Entering Saturday's game at Minnesota, McGloin had participated in just one play this season, a handoff to end the season-opening game against Youngstown State.
But when freshman starter Rob Bolden suffered a concussion on a running play in the second quarter against the Golden Gophers, McGloin, a third-stringer, was sent into the game in relief, not Newsome.
"Newsome's a better athlete, but McGloin is more stable," Penn State coach Joe Paterno said. "I didn't want to stick Newsome in a situation that he wasn't quite ready for."
McGloin, a redshirt sophomore, threw a 42-yard touchdown pass to Derek Moye on his first career completion and touchdown pass. And McGloin hooked up on a 9-yard scoring strike with Moye in the fourth quarter.
"I think the coaches have a lot of confidence in him and he has a lot of confidence in himself and his abilities," said Moye, who had a team-high three catches for 81 yards. "He went out there and showed what he could do a little bit."
McGloin finished 6 of 13 passing for 76 yards in the first extended playing time of his career for Penn State (4-3, 1-2 Big Ten). He also threw an interception.
Wide receiver and co-captain Brett Brackett, who caught a 21-yard touchdown pass from Bolden before he left the game, also was impressed with McGloin's leadership skills.
"The one thing that really stood out was the way Matt handled the huddle," Brackett said. "Just took command and was calm and poised."
Bolden took part in 26 plays against Minnesota, McGloin 24 and Newsome six. Newsome did not attempt a pass, but the sophomore ran three times for 4 yards.
Bolden even wore McGloin's hat on the sideline after leaving the game.
"You dream about this since you've played in the backyard with your brothers," McGloin said. "That's what you practice for. Coach Jay [Paterno, Penn State quarterback coach] does a great job of getting Kevin and myself as many reps as he can in practice while Rob's not in there.
"And you just got to let your instincts take over and you just play the game and remember how much fun it is to play."
Bolden completed his first nine passes for 115 yards against the Gophers and was 11 of 13 overall for 130 yards and one touchdown before departing.
"He just said he was a little dizzy," Moye said. "He felt like he could've been back in the game."
Bolden was expected to undergo a series of medical tests Sunday, but Penn State spokesman Jeff Nelson said Bolden's status would not be updated until today at the earliest. If Bolden is unable to play Saturday night at home against Michigan on ESPN, McGloin could get his first career start.
McGloin, 6 feet 1 and 209 pounds, was a three-year starter at West Scranton High School. He threw for 5,485 yards and 58 touchdowns while leading his team to two Class AAA district crowns and a league title. But he had just two scholarship offers from Division I-AA schools, Colgate and Lehigh, before opting to attend Penn State as a walk-on.
That's what made Saturday's performance so satisfying.
"To get that opportunity, I'm just speechless," McGloin said. "I'm just glad my coaches and my teammates had faith in me. They knew I was going to be ready."
Ron Musselman can be reached at email@example.com .