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‘Cocky kid’ McGloin rejuvenates Penn State

Jerry DiPaola

With bowl hopes diminishing, team unity disintegrating and the starting quarterback dizzy after a hit to the head, backup Matt McGloin walked into the Penn State huddle. He looked his teammates in the eyes and dared them to follow him.

That was nearly three weeks ago in an obscure Big Ten game against a bad Minnesota team. With starter Rob Bolden out with a concussion, McGloin led Penn State to a victory that day and two more after that.

McGloin has captured the attention of his teammates and ESPN skeptic Kirk Herbstreit, all of whom are eager to see where he might end up next.

“For whatever reason, we get a little more up (when McGloin is in the game),” receiver Derek Moye said. “We play a lot better.”

“His confidence rubs off on everybody,” right guard Stefen Wisniewski said.

“I dubbed him the West Scranton gunslinger,” linebacker Michael Mauti said.

McGloin, who came to Penn State as a walk-on in 2008, makes his most challenging start of the season Saturday when the Nittany Lions visit No. 8 Ohio State.

“Never heard of him,” Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor said. “But I have heard of Rob Bolden.”

Maybe that’s one of the reasons why the Nittany Lions are 18-point underdogs against Ohio State, which is third in the nation in pass defense (150.2 yards per game). No one is exactly sure what McGloin will do next.

Except McGloin.

“We are going to be able to move the ball, especially with the wideouts we have,” he said, perhaps unaware that a Joe Paterno team has never thrown a touchdown pass in Columbus. “I don’t think anyone else in the Big Ten has the playmakers we have.”

Such talk coming from a player who was third string as recently as last month might sound strange, but not to Mauti.

“He’s a cocky kid,” said Mauti, who likes to compare McGloin to Brett Favre, “but he’s our cocky kid.”

McGloin enjoys the spotlight. He met this week with Herbstreit and poked fun at one of the nation’s leading college football analysts, who predicted Penn State never would beat Michigan with a former walk-on at quarterback. McGloin threw for 250 yards and a touchdown in a 41-31 victory.

McGloin, 6-foot-1 and 206 pounds, was a good high school quarterback who “failed the eyeball test,” Mauti said.

“But I don’t believe in the eyeball test,” the linebacker added. “He can run, and he can throw. All summer, he was up in front in the sprints.”

While playing only one game from beginning to end, McGloin has thrown seven touchdown passes — two more than Bolden, who has made eight starts. Plus, McGloin brings an enthusiasm to the huddle that Bolden never generated.

“Bolden is all business in there,” Wisniewski said. “McGloin has a little more fun doing it.”

McGloin said he could be an example to other walk-ons. Recruited by several Patriot League schools, McGloin sought a bigger stage.

“My mother always told me, ‘Never have any regrets,’ ” he said. “Everybody needs to work hard, whether they get a scholarship or not. Hard work pays off, believe it or not.”


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