Giger: Thank goodness PSU is getting scholarships back

You can put up with a mediocre or even bad movie as long as there’s a great ending – “The Usual Suspects,” “Memento” and “Fight Club” come to mind – and Penn State’s win Saturday falls into that category.

No one would confuse what the Nittany Lions did as good after watching them struggle against a poor and poorly coached Illinois squad. But the ending was exciting, and they escaped in overtime, 24-17.

Just like there really are no moral victories for teams that lose in big-time sports, there should be no such thing as a disappointing win.

Yes, the Lions looked lousy for much of the game. Yes, playing like that, they probably would have lost to any other Big Ten team except awful Purdue. And yes, it once again became clear that their pass defense is a sieve against a capable throwing quarterback.

But the ending was good Saturday, which was all that mattered to coach Bill O’Brien as he barked at a reporter after it was suggested his team was “fortunate.”

Honestly, Penn State is fortunate. Very fortunate. But not just for what occurred Saturday.

The biggest prevailing thought I’ve had about PSU over the past month is just how fortunate everyone who follows the program should feel about what happened Sept. 24.

That’s the day the NCAA announced it would be reducing the Lions’ scholarship sanctions, and in essence saving Penn State fans from what would have been at least four long, potentially painful seasons.

The blowout loss at Indiana and the rotten showing against Illinois would have merely been the tip of the iceberg for the poor football that would have been on display at times had PSU been limited to 65 scholarships the next four years.

Many people are making excuses for this year’s team about how the scholarship losses are the primary reason for the struggles. That’s undoubtedly part of the problem with only 61 recruited scholarship players, but it’s also somewhat of a convenient excuse for those unwilling to acknowledge that there are still a lot of good players on the team who should be playing better.

O’Brien and his staff would have made the best of things had the 65-scholarship limit gone in effect from 2014-17. And Penn State still would have won its share of games.

But goodness gracious, if the team is losing to the likes of Indiana and barely beating Illinois now, just think how sloppy things would have looked in a few years, after some of the current standouts such as Allen Robinson are gone and the team was in year two or three or four of the 65-scholarship limit.

Recruiting has gone better than expected despite the sanctions, and the optimists always believed the program could more than stay afloat with 65 scholarships for four years. A lot of that optimism has been based on tremendous belief in O’Brien.

The bottom line, though, is that this season is proving just how difficult it is to beat good, mediocre and even bad college teams if you are way undermanned.

As it turns out, PSU won’t have to go through any NCAA-mandated 65-scholarship seasons. The Lions will have 75 scholarships next year, 80 in 2015 and the full allotment of 85 in 2016.

There could be a very good ending to all of this if O’Brien stays put, and it could come as early as 2015 or ’16.

Until then, the rest of this season and probably next season figure to be like a bad movie that’s hard to watch at times, just like Saturday’s game.

SUBHD: McGloin plays

Congratulations to Matt McGloin, who appeared in his first NFL regular-season game Sunday for the Raiders, who were blown out by the Eagles.

McGloin, who completed 7-of-15 passes for 87 yards, truly is a remarkable story. He was a zero-star recruit and did not have a single Division I scholarship offer coming out of high school, yet he made it to the NFL and now has the stats to show for it.

Aside from Kerry Collins, McGloin joins Wally Richardson (two passes in 1998) and Kevin Thompson (one pass in 2000) as the only PSU quarterbacks to throw a pass in the NFL as a quarterback since 1995. Michael Robinson has thrown two passes, but they came while he was playing fullback or receiver.

Follow Giger on Twitter @CoryGiger.