McGloin sparks Penn State win against Temple, 24-13

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Matt McGloin looks damaged when a football game ends. His fair skin has reddened; his hair is tousled beneath the helmet. There is plenty of sweat.

Win or lose, the quarterback's eyes show exhaustion, a sense that they accept and bear all the heavy pressures. But this season, in new coach Bill O'Brien's quarterback-freeing offense, McGloin is thriving as the 24-13 victory Saturday against Temple (1-2) illustrated. McGloin completed 24 of 36 passes for 318 yards, threw for one touchdown and ran for two more as the Nittany Lions raised their record to 2-2.

"I don't know what [quarterbacks] coach [Charlie] Fisher and coach O'Brien did to him," tight end Kyle Carter said, "but he's a totally different quarterback now."

He has been for the better part of this young season. McGloin has thrown nine touchdowns and two interceptions. He has thrown for 1,006 yards. He is two-thirds of the way to replicating his yardage total from last year and already has surpassed the number of touchdowns.

O'Brien and several players hinted at the possibility of a new McGloin this year.

Many players described him as the most confident person on the team. O'Brien kept talking about all the strides he made in the spring practices.

The old McGloin is known to all fans: a former walk-on who rose to the starting position but never completely sealed it. He once threw five interceptions in a game.

"He's got such a desire to do well," Fisher said. "Sometimes, he's hard on himself and makes it too difficult on himself."

Fisher remembered those spring workouts. In the last 10 or so, McGloin changed. Even if he looked beat up on the outside, he started to realize that he needed to forget the problems, the criticism, the mistakes. He needed to move on quickly.

Fisher saw McGloin make better decisions while throwing and noted the determined way he called plays at the line. McGloin had begun developing a different persona.

"I don't feel like I have to press myself," he said. "That's all in the past."

The past. It's always a topic when Penn State and Temple play. The Nittany Lions' win Saturday was their 30th in a row in the series.

Still, O'Brien convinced them early in the week that they would need to be up for this game. His methods followed the course set by so many coaches; he told his players that Temple was disrespecting them.

At the first team meeting Monday, cornerback Stephon Morris said O'Brien told them Temple had been talking about how the streak would end and how they were tougher, grittier players from Philadelphia. The defense responded by playing the way it generally has against Temple. It held the Owls to 96 yards in the first half and 237 for the game.

The offense drove the field with ease most of the time, but penalties (nine for 105 yards) and an interception spoiled two drives that could have turned the game into a blowout.

"We left a lot of points on the board and we have to clean that up," O'Brien said.

In the end, those mistakes didn't matter. This might still be a down year for Penn State, but the Owls weren't good enough to break their losing streak against the Nittany Lions.

They did cause some havoc with their pass rush, and O'Brien complimented their blitz schemes. Perhaps the McGloin of old would have become flustered. Saturday and for the majority of this season so far, he appears to have moved beyond such times.

On his first rushing touchdown, McGloin ran through three Temple defenders, scoring from the 1. Used to so much of a burden, he had no trouble dragging the would-be tacklers on his back into the end zone with him.

Meanwhile, fullback Mike Zordich left the game early Saturday with a bruised left knee. He finished with 75 rushing yards on 15 carries and 39 receiving yards on four receptions.

"He's a tough kid," O'Brien said. "I'll say he'll probably spit on it and be all right."

Running backs Derek Day and Bill Belton were in uniform Saturday but did not play. O'Brien said he expected Belton to be able to practice more this week and could use several running backs against Illinois in the next game.

psusports

Mark Dent: mdent@post-gazette.com, Twitter @mdent05.


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