Cook: Penn State QB McGloin having a storied season

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Penn State quarterback Matt McGloin should write a book. You hear that said about people all of the time. "Joe Blow should write a book." But, in McGloin's case, the suggestion is legitimate. He has a fascinating story to tell. He even has a degree in journalism to boot.

"Actually, I've thought about writing a book in the future," McGloin said this week.

McGloin has been a part of a few incredible moments at Penn State, none bigger than the November night in 2010 when he threw four touchdown passes against Northwestern to give coach Joe Paterno his 400th career win. I was at Beaver Stadium -- along with a crowd of 104,147 -- for that game. It was one of the more magical, memorable events I have covered in about 80 years of watching sports. Don't believe the NCAA. The game actually happened.

McGloin also has been involved in many lows at Penn State. He threw five interceptions in an Outback Bowl loss to Florida after the '10 season. He lost his starting job to Rob Bolden for most of the '11 season. He was dropped in a locker room fight with teammate Curtis Drake in December and didn't play in Penn State's TicketCity Bowl loss to Houston two weeks later. Of course, the lowest of the lows was the firing of the iconic Paterno in November just four days after the arrest of pedophile Jerry Sandusky, followed by heavy sanctions against the program from the NCAA.

"We've been through Penn State's darkest hours," McGloin said of his teammates. "To stick together and really come together like we have, you don't see that every day."

No one at Penn State has persevered more than McGloin, a walk-on to the program in 2008. Linebacker Michael Mauti is the undisputed team leader, but McGloin's amazing improvement is the biggest reason Penn State (5-2) takes a five-game winning streak into Beaver Stadium Saturday against No. 9 Ohio State (8-0). McGloin wasn't even remotely competent in '11, although he did start in Penn State's post-Paterno win at Ohio State. He might be the best quarterback in the Big Ten Conference this season.

"I'm not surprised we're playing this well. We've got a lot of talent out there," McGloin said.

Penn State also has some pretty terrific coaching. What coach Bill O'Brien and quarterbacks coach Charlie Fisher have done with McGloin is phenomenal.

"I'm not surprised I'm playing this well. I felt like I always had the ability to do this," McGloin said. "Having coach O'Brien and coach Fisher by my side is what I've always needed, two guys who are working as hard as they can at all times to make me better. I truly believe in what they are trying to accomplish here."

McGloin never had that sort of coaching under the Paternos, Joe and son Jay, Penn State's former quarterbacks coach. O'Brien picked up the telephone Thursday morning to call from Happy Valley to say all credit should go to McGloin, but that was his modesty speaking. You can see the coaching in the way McGloin runs what might be the Big Ten's most wide-open offense. You can see it in his numbers. He leads the Big Ten in completions and passing yards per game. He has thrown for 14 touchdowns with just two interceptions. He has run for a team-high five touchdowns.

"When we first came here, we knew right away that Matt was a very competitive guy, a smart guy, a tough guy," O'Brien said. "We gave him some things to work on in the spring and the summer. His footwork. How he carried the ball in the pocket. His ball security in the pocket. Keeping his elbow up when he threw the ball. ... Listen, it's hard to change how a guy throws the football. But we definitely improved his footwork."

McGloin took the advice and ran with it. He has come so far that he has O'Brien's complete trust on the field.

"He always says, 'I just call the plays. It's up to you to see what they're doing and get us in the right position,' " McGloin said. "The whole offense is based on not running a bad play, not wasting a down. You have to know exactly what's going on out there at all times."

It's what McGloin does best. He doesn't have an especially strong arm. His teammates tease him that he's hardly athletic. "But he understands the game," fullback Mike Zordich said. McGloin also shares O'Brien's fierce competitive nature. "We both have a bit of angriness about us," McGloin said. Throw in the enormous chip on Mauti's shoulder and it's easy to understand how Penn State has been able to fight through these troubled times to become one of the great stories in college football.

McGloin should be able to get plenty of material for his book from the game Saturday. A sellout crowd of nearly 110,000 is expected at Beaver Stadium. A win would put Penn State in a great spot to finish first in the Big Ten's Leaders Division, the best it can do this season because it can't play in the conference championship game or a bowl game because of the NCAA sanctions.

"The seniors only have five games left to wear the Penn State helmet," McGloin said. "This can be a very special year for us. We understand what's at stake. We very well could win the next five games and finish 10-2."

That might just be enough to make McGloin's book a best-seller.

He will get a second degree in telecommunications in December and said he hopes to be a college football analyst one day.

Here's hoping he becomes an author first.

roncook

Ron Cook: rcook@post-gazette.com. Ron Cook can be heard on the "Vinnie and Cook" show weekdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on 93.7 The Fan.


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