EVANSTON, Ill. - Matt McGloin has come to the interview area all year without a smile.
That changed Saturday night.
McGloin made his first start of the season and, perhaps not coincidentally, Penn State's offense put together its best performance by far in outscoring Northwestern, 34-24, at Ryan Field.
Asked if he's thrived on the adversity that has surrounded the quarterback derby with Rob Bolden, McGloin could only offer a playful, "I love it, yeah," that dripped of sarcasm.
He followed it up with an ear-to-ear grin that was a welcome departure from his usual stern approach, in part because he has been frustrated waiting for an opportunity that finally came.
"It's just laughable because everybody makes such a big deal out of it," McGloin said.
McGloin said he was told prior to last week's game with Purdue that he'd start against Northwestern. Maybe the coaching staff knew it was going to need all the offense it could muster against the explosive Wildcats. Maybe it got tired of waiting for Rob Bolden to develop. Or maybe it was just finally time for a decision.
"We figured we had to score some points," Joe Paterno said.
McGloin completed 17-of-26 for 192 yards and two touchdowns. He was not intercepted. As significantly, Bolden was not summoned as the Lions struggled to maintain control of the game until their defense finally slammed the door with a second-half shutout.
"We talked about alternating," JoePa said, "but there was no spot to get him [Bolden] in."
It didn't take long for the postgame press conference to turn into a flurry of questions about the quarterback, and it didn't take long for JoePa's voice to go up a couple of octaves in protest over having to make a declaration of a new starter.
"We won the game," he said, attempting to nip the subject.
Is McGloin the team's new No. 1 quarterback going forward?
"No," he said. "There will be days when Bolden will play."
Quarterbacks coach Jay Paterno said he felt McGloin played extremely well in the first half (14-of-19 for 160 and both touchdowns), but the offense bogged down a bit in the third quarter. JayPa debated inserting Bolden, but his father decided against it.
After a career-high six catches for 110 yards and a 45-yard touchdown, Devon Smith, for one, supported settling on one quarterback.
"It helps a lot ... it [one quarterback] didn't change the game," he said. "With two quarterbacks, sometimes the game gets slowed down, and it's not right. But that's for the coaches to decide. Whoever the quarterback is, we've just got to go out and make plays."
The offense made them most of the night. Behind an improving line that allowed only one sack and repeatedly opened up gaping holes for Silas Redd, the Lions unleashed an impressive ground game, averaged 5.0 yards per rush, and McGloin spread the ball around to eight different receivers.
They were even efficient in the red zone, scoring on their first five trips, including three touchdowns, and showed smart clock management before halftime.
"We did a good job finishing drives," receiver Justin Brown said. "We knew we had the potential to do this, and we went out and proved it."
After leaning heavily on their defense through the first half of the season, the Lions' offense finally showed it's capable of doing its part.
"It's about time we started to help our defense out," McGloin said.
At 7-1 with the meat of the schedule still on the horizon, and Penn State standing in first place in the Big Ten's Leaders Division, the decision to start and stick with McGloin was well-timed.
And because of it, the Nittany Lions no longer look like a one-dimensional team.
Rudel can be reached at 946-7527 or firstname.lastname@example.org.