UNIVERSITY PARK - Whether he is Penn State's No. 1 quarterback next week or even tomorrow is not as important as the fact that in what may have been the only start of his career, Matt McGloin had a game he and the Nittany Nation won't soon forget.
McGloin completed 17-of-28 passes for 250 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions to spark the Lions' 41-31 victory over Michigan before 108,539 at Beaver Stadium and a national TV audience.
As much as his numbers were significant, so, too, was his poise as the offense played easily its best game of the season.
Mirror photo by J.D. Cavrich
Penn State quarterback Matt McGloin passes the ball around Michigan defensive end Adam Patterson.
"The whole week the confidence level was super," McGloin said. "The coaches and the players really believed in me."
He did, too.
McGloin filled in for the injured Rob Bolden, who sustained a concussion last week and sat out the second half at Minnesota.
The redshirt sophomore from Scranton came off the bench to throw a pair of touchdowns passes against the Gophers and then Saturday night became the first walk-on or former walk-on to start at quarterback during Joe Paterno's 45 years.
"I thought he did well, and I thought the whole offense played really well," JoePa said.
Penn State was crisp. It did not commit a turnover, had no problems with clock management and was called for just one penalty.
"That's about as well as we can play," JoePa said, "and Mac had a lot to do with it."
McGloin was at his best in the clutch. He alertly scrambled for 11 yards on the first third down he faced, prompting quarterbacks coach Jay Paterno to say, "just because he's a white guy doesn't mean he can't run."
On the Lions' first possession, which set the tone against Michigan's porous defense, McGloin converted three third downs. He wound up completing an incredible 8-for-10 for 108 yards on third down - six of which went for first downs, including a 20-yard touchdown to Graham Zug that put the Lions up 28-10 at halftime.
"He's a smart player," Jay Paterno said. "I didn't have any doubts about him. I thought he did a phenomenal job."
After the game, McGloin took a playful shot at ESPN's Kirk Herbstreit, who had questioned the quarterback's ability earlier in the day.
"I'm gunning for him," McGloin told ESPN on the field after the game.
That confidence moved Jay Paterno to suggest, "he's got moxie, sometimes too much."
JoePa was not ready to address the quarterback position after the game.
"I haven't got the slightest idea," he said. "Let me enjoy this one first."
McGloin deflected the question, and JayPa said Bolden is still the starter.
"It's Rob's job," the Lions' quarterbacks coach said. "He got hurt, and he's coming back. But the good thing is we have two guys who have won games. That's a luxury."
Bolden could have played Saturday night but only in an emergency. Jay Paterno said Kevin Newsome, who has been bothered by a knee injury, warmed up well and would have been the backup.
Despite Bolden's absence, there was no dropoff in the aggressiveness of the playcalling as the Lion staff effectively challenged Michigan deep and with a nice array of underneath routes and screen passes.
It helped that the offensive line came off the ball well, and freed Evan Royster for 150 yards and allowed him to finally break Curt Warner's career rushing record.
The offense was able to control the clock for nearly 38 minutes, and it had to because the defense had its hands full with the dynamic Denard Robinson, who kept UM in the game by himself.
The combination added up to a 5-3 record and a resuscitated season that will bring the eyes of the nation here next week as Paterno has a chance to reach the 400-victory plateau.
He wasn't asked about that late Saturday night and likely would have been as evasive as he was about his starting quarterback.
"I'm going home to go to bed," he said.
Now knowing he can win with Matt McGloin, JoePa presumably slept well.
Rudel can be reached at 946-7527 or email@example.com.