Penn State running back Silas Redd carries the ball in the first half against Northwestern Saturday at Beaver Stadium. The true freshman scored a 4-yard touchdown in the third quarter.Don Carey/the times leader
STATE COLLEGE — Matt McGloin took the final knee, but even after the whistle had blown, he clung to the ball as though his life depended on it.
He took off his helmet. He put on a celebratory hat for Joe Paterno’s 400th career win. TV crews came up for quick interviews on the field.
Senior captain Ollie Ogbu galloped behind him, slapping his shoulder pads and declaring into a camera, “Let’s go! Number one here, baby! McGloin! Right here!”
But McGloin never set down that ball.
“This one’s for Coach,” McGloin said on the field, nodding down toward the pigskin.
No coach in major college football history had ever reached 400 wins, and a former walk-on from West Scranton High School made the last one possible.
Despite entering Saturday’s game once again as a backup, McGloin took over the offense from Rob Bolden after just two drives. He proceeded to throw four touchdowns and rally the Nittany Lions from a three-touchdown deficit for an unprecedented 35-21 win over Northwestern.
After that, how could he possibly be sent back to the bench for next week’s game against Ohio State?
“I think it speaks for itself,” McGloin said of his performance on Saturday, one that will go down as one of the most memorable in Penn State history. “I played well again today, but once again, it’s not my decision. It’s something you’re gonna have to ask the coaches.”
“We’ll talk about that,” quarterbacks coach Jay Paterno said about picking a starter to face the Buckeyes. “That’s not something we could even talk about right now. We’ll talk about that (today) and go from there.”
McGloin had performed admirably when pressed into duty two weeks earlier out at Minnesota when Bolden was knocked out of the game with an apparent concussion.
He threw two touchdowns in relief to help the Lions beat the Golden Gophers 33-21. The coaches went with McGloin from the get-go last week against Michigan while Bolden continued to recover, and McGloin threw for 250 yards and a touchdown while adding a second score on the ground in a 41-31 win.
Joe Paterno said Tuesday that McGloin and Bolden would battle it out in practice to start this week against Northwestern, but coaches told McGloin at the beginning of the week that it was Bolden who would likely start.
Bolden did start against the Wildcats and moved the ball well in two drives that stalled in Northwestern territory. The first ended when Evan Royster was stuffed on fourth-and-1 at the Northwestern 36.
The second came to an end when blitzing safety Hunter Bates came through untouched to lay out Bolden and force a fumble that Nate Williams recovered at the Wildcats’ 40.
Williams had also crushed Bolden earlier in the drive when he came through the line unblocked on a blitz up the middle for a 10-yard sack.
Bolden never returned to the game following the fumble and appeared shaken up after the hit. Joe Paterno was adamant after the game, however, that Bolden was healthy and ready to go.
It was just McGloin’s turn to prove himself. Again.
“I had gone into the game with the idea that Bolden deserved a chance,” Joe Paterno said. “You would hate to drop a kid because he was hurt. But (McGloin) has practiced well, he’s worked hard, he hasn’t pouted or griped. He deserved a shot.
“I literally made up my mind that there was a time in there where I was gonna go with two quarterbacks and see what was gonna happen. (McGloin) did all right ... so I decided to stay with him.”
And now the Lions may be staying with him for the rest of the season.