UNIVERSITY PARK - In coach Joe Paterno's mind, the Penn State quarterback job is still officially a two-man rotation.
On the field, it sure looks like Matt McGloin is the go-to guy in the huddle over Rob Bolden for the 16th-ranked Nittany Lions.
"To be honest with you, it's always felt like it was my team ... whether I was in there or not," McGloin said Wednesday
The passing game very much remains a work in progress in Happy Valley. Lately, though, McGloin has taken the majority of snaps, to varying degrees of success.
The most important measure of success to the Nittany Lions (8-1, 5-0 Big Ten), though, is their record. They enter the bye week with a surprising two-game lead in the loss column over Leaders Division rivals Ohio State, Purdue and Wisconsin.
"Absolutely this team deserves a bye week," McGloin said. "We're probably the only [people] in the country that believed we would be undefeated or 8-1 going into the bye."
And especially not with the seasonlong drama over the quarterback job.
Bolden started the first seven games and had various rotations with McGloin coming off the bench. Against Northwestern two weeks ago, McGloin had his first start and played the entire game, throwing for 192 yards and two first-quarter touchdowns before the defense held on in the second half for 34-24 victory.
Last week against Illinois, McGloin's success came on the last drive in the fourth quarter of an otherwise awful afternoon.
Benefiting from the return of favorite target Derek Moye from a left foot injury, McGloin connected on three straight long completions to drive form his own 20 to the Illinois 36. A pass later in the end zone on fourth-and-6 bounced off Moye's hands, but Illinois corner Justin Green was whistled for pass interference to keep the drive alive.
McGloin hit one more pass to Moye to get to the 8 before Penn State handed the ball to budding star tailback Silas Redd, who ran in from 3 yards for a 10-7 lead with 1:08 to go.
"That drive right there proved that when we need a drive, we're capable of doing that as an offense," McGloin said. "In a situation where you want to have a successful season, you have to have a drive like that."
Paterno made sure to credit McGloin for his poise and demeanor. Moye, good friends with McGloin, called it his quarterback's "an almost I don't care attitude."
"If something bad will happen on the play before, he'll come back and not really worry about it," Moye added.
McGloin has thrown for seven touchdowns and three interceptions over the last six games.
Bolden has had one touchdown pass, two interceptions and dwindling playing time during that span. After sitting out the entire Northwestern game, Bolden played just the second quarter against Illinois, missing all four pass attempts. He appears to be having more trouble sensing pressure in the pocket.
Still, Paterno said he still plans to use a rotation at quarterback.
"It wouldn't be fair to Bolden for me not to still consider him as one of the kids that we are going to depend on," Paterno said Tuesday. "He's worked too hard. He's made too many sacrifices and he's got too much ability for me to just say in one or two football games ... 'Hey, we're not counting on you.'"
Paterno and his son, quarterback coach Jay Paterno, are letting McGloin and Bolden know earlier in the week how playing time will be divided.
"Early on, it was kind of understood that Rob would go first, I would go second," McGloin said. "Now Jay realizes he needs to be more clear with what's going on, more clear with the gameplan."
Whatever the plan, the offense seems to have more of a spark when McGloin is in the huddle.
It could be his demeanor rubbing off on teammates. Or how his penchant for throwing a sometimes risky deep ball to Moye gives opposing defenses pause to crowd the line to stop Redd - the Big Ten's leading rusher with 1,006 yards.
McGloin in part credits his experience for keeping the offense calm in pressure situations.
Moye, a senior captain, is sticking with the team-first line.
"To be honest with you, if [McGloin] is in there, or if Rob's in there, we just have to go out there and play our games as an offense," Moye said. "We just have to do our jobs."