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October 24, 2011At long last, Penn State's quarterback controversy has met its end.
Redshirt junior quarterback Matt McGloin played from the first to the final snap on Saturday night against Northwestern. In full control of the position, he didn't disappoint, completing 17 of 26 attempts for 192 yards, including back-to-back touchdown passes on the Lions' first and second possessions of the game.
After the game, teammates lauded the coaches' decision to go with one signal-caller, acknowledging the cohesion it brought the offense throughout Penn State's crucial 34-24 win. No shared snaps, no switcheroo, the biggest scoring output since September, and the Lions' sixth consecutive win.
Simple enough, if only Penn State's coaches would agree to go along with it.
Though the coaching staff settled on just one quarterback for a full game for the first time this season, the matter is hardly settled. Instead, quarterbacks coach Jay Paterno offered this explanation for the seemingly dramatic turn of events in the quarterback competition.
"Rob had gone first every game and we wanted to give Matt a shot to go first," he said. "There's nothing beyond that. Joe made that call and Joe felt like he started out pretty hot and didn't want to ruin the continuity of what we were doing.
"We're going to continue to compete and go from there."
Asked directly whether or not McGloin was now the team's quarterback, the elder Paterno offered little insight beyond the fact that the performance did not change his mind about wanting to continue playing both competitors.
"No, I don't know who the quarterback..." he said, trailing off. "There will be days when Bolden will play and... We won the game! We won the game! Who knows? You guys are the experts.
"We had talked to the kids about alternating week to week and we told McGloin and Bolden that Mac was going to start. Then the game was going back and forth so there was no real spot..."
For the fans, the media, and frankly, the players involved, all craving an honest answer and clarification on an increasingly muddled situation, Paterno's response was actually fitting. Because really, at this point, who knows?
McGloin certainly does not appear to know.
When told of Jay Paterno's comments about the resumption of the quarterback competition in practice on Monday afternoon, McGloin said he wasn't shocked to hear it while wearing his obvious frustration at the situation on his face.
"I've been battling since I got here so I'm really not surprised he said that," he said. "There's really nothing I can do about it. I just have to continue to improve all the time.
"I just do what the coaches tell me. If they want me to play the whole game, I'll play it. If they want Rob to come in and out, that's what we're going to do. But, the offense did play really well today."
He was correct.
For the first time in a month, the Lions topped 30 points on the scoreboard, holding their own against a vaunted Northwestern offense in a must-score shootout. The Lions accumulated 20 first downs, topped their total offensive yards per game average, didn't give up an offensive turnover, converted five of 13 third downs, and scored on five of six red zone opportunities.
Though his passer efficiency rating of 139.2 is 54 points higher than that of Bolden, and his seven touchdowns are six more than those of Bolden, and his 1,095 total passing yards more than double Bolden's 526, the insistence of Penn State's coaching staff to maintain the competition is puzzling, especially to McGloin.
"At times you get frustrated," he said. "(Jay and I) talk about it, yeah. At quarterback... you're going to have arguments, you're going to have disagreements, but at the same time, you want to work together. You want to do what's best for the team.
"Sure, we have arguments, but we talk, we figure things out and focus on what's best for the team."
For McGloin, for Bolden, and for the rest of the Nittany Lions, what's best for the team is a long-overdue decision to make him the team's starter for the remainder of the season. Though he'll have to continue to fight for the job into the week, McGloin said he hopes his performance Saturday night will lead to more opportunities as the starter this season.
"I hope so. I would like to be the guy to start and play, but at the same time, I'm willing to do what's best for the team," he said. "If that means alternating once again, then that's fine with me as long as we continue to win."