QB job remains sensitive topic at Penn State
Quarterback Matt McGloin and the Penn State offense played three mainly forgettable quarters before a frantic final 15 minutes at chilly Beaver Stadium.
In between, there were sighs, groans and calls from the cold crowd for coach Joe Paterno to get backup Rob Bolden into the game. Someone warned Paterno before his meeting with reporters following the 28-22 loss Saturday to No. 7 Michigan State, because a seemingly innocent query to assess McGloin's day elicited a colorful response from the otherwise even-keeled head coach.
The quarterback job remains a sensitive topic in Happy Valley, even after Penn State went 4-2 in the second half with the aid of former walk-on McGloin. The sophomore wrested the starting job away from touted freshman Bolden at midseason.
''What are you talking about?'' Paterno asked rhetorically, apparently feigning confusion after the question about McGloin. ''How I am supposed to answer that? I got the question.''
Through three quarters, McGloin was 12 of 25 for 139 yards against a Spartans defense that took away the screen game - a dangerous play in the Penn State arsenal in recent weeks. It could have been especially effective on a blustery day that made throwing deep a risk.
McGloin looked out of sorts, as did the rest of an offense prone by penalties and one especially big dropped pass by receiver Brett Brackett that could have gone for at least 25 yards on the drive following Michigan State's second touchdown.
Instead, Penn State punted and limped into halftime down 14-3.
Whispers about inserting Bolden grew louder from the fans as the struggles continued into the third quarter. Paterno said he was warned while leaving the field that the media might ask about why he didn't insert Bolden.
''Well, I said if they ask a dumb question like that, they'll get a dumb answer,'' Paterno said. ''So you got a dumb answer to a dumb question.''
He could have focused on McGloin's fourth-quarter positives, when the quarterback dubbed by teammates the ''West Scranton Gunslinger,'' after his hometown, found his rhythm. With Penn State playing catch-up, McGloin went 11 of 18 in the last quarter for 173 yards and two touchdowns.
He finished 23 of 43 passing for 312 yards with an interception, the first time a Nittany Lions quarterback posted consecutive 300-yard games.
Once again, the Nittany Lions played an incomplete game - a familiar theme this season.
''It was up and down,'' quarterback coach Jay Paterno said. ''We could have done a better job of managing the game - us as well as what was happening on the field.''
A 7-5 regular-season finish is always disappointing in Happy Valley, where many fans expect nothing less than a Big Ten title contender. The effects of a young team, a slew of injuries and the learning curve that came with starting the season with Bolden all played key roles.
So Paterno's crew will have to settle for a likely berth in the Gator or Outback bowls on New Year's Day in Florida - not a bad consolation prize for a team that lost its three other games to ranked teams (Alabama, Iowa and Ohio State). The bowl practices will be used in part to start building toward 2011, when Paterno plans to return for a 46th season.
McGloin figures to remain the starter through the bowl, though JoePa will have an interesting predicament come spring if he opens up the starting job again.
Besides McGloin and Bolden, third-stringer Kevin Newsome and promising redshirt Paul Jones could also be thrown into the mix.