Matt McGloin awkwardly received the snap from center Matt Stankiewitch, stepped towards his right, and reached forward for the end zone. Nothing about the run was pretty, but it somehow resulted in a one yard touchdown– the first rushing touchdown of the season for Penn State.
It gave the Nittany Lions (2-2) a 14-3 lead over the Temple Owls (1-2) heading into halftime. The funny thing about the funny looking play is that it never was supposed to happen. An alignment issue threw things out of whack and made McGloin improvise. He did it successfully.
Perhaps that best symbolizes the quarterback’s impressive senior season so far. Few expected him to lead the Big Ten in touchdown passes heading into today or break his career record for passing yards in a game after tying his career record for touchdown passes last week, but he did.
The numbers do not lie, and in this instance, neither do one’s eyes. McGloin is a much improved quarterback from a year ago. Exactly how and when did this happen? Charlie Fisher believes his pupil began to turn a corner with a week left in spring practice. The improved mechanics and decision-making have translated to the first month of the season. “He’s just seeing things a lot better, and he’s realizing when he does and doesn’t have a play,” said Fisher. Fisher and O’Brien deserve much of the credit along with a fresh group of tight ends, but so does McGloin. The quarterback is playing the best stretch of football in his career, yet he’s not letting the emotions of one game distract him moving forward.
“Each game is our Super Bowl. We’re not living in the past. We practice our tails off and play as hard as we can every week,” said McGloin. The quarterback sneak was used multiple times today and is becoming a big part of the offense when the Nittany Lions need a first down. “We watch a lot of [Tom] Brady. Rarely in his twelve years is he not effective when the Patriots attempt a quarterback sneak,” said McGloin.
McGloin’s effective play combined with some gutsy running by Michael Zordich and Zack Zwinak paced the way for an offense that registered 491 total yards, more than double Temple’s output. Unlike the past two contests, the defense did not force any turnovers today but did come away with three sacks as Ted Roof’s unit completely stifled Steve Addazio’s offense. A run heavy team, the Owls were forced to pass almost as much as they did in their first two games combined, and quarterback Chris Coyer struggled for much of the afternoon.
One bright spot for the Owls was kicker Brandon McManus who converted both field goal attempts and had a great game punting. The rest of the Owls’ offense was shut down as seniors Michael Mauti, Jordan Hill, and Gerald Hodges led the way for the Nittany Lions with nine, seven, and six tackles respectively. Temple found the end zone with under two minutes remaining, but it was meaningless as Paul Jones recovered the onside kick attempt to seal the victory.
The victory featured contributions from a few lesser known Nittany Lions including Zwinak who led the way in rushing and Jesse Della Valle, who returned a punt twenty nine yards to the Owls’ forty six yard line. The Nittany Lions would score their first touchdown a few plays later with a familiar connection as McGloin found Allen Robinson on a fourth and five attempt that went forty one yards all the way to the end zone.
Unlike the past two meetings against Temple, the Nittany Lions never trailed. While the final score did not reflect it, this felt like one of those Penn State -Temple games from five years ago that the Nittany Lions controlled most of the way.
Not everything was perfect. There were far too many penalties for O’Brien’s liking. Receiver Brandon Moseby-Felder had a pass hit off his hands that resulted in a Temple interception. The offense started slow on its first two drives. All of that aside, things were much better than they were the last two years against Temple when Penn State narrowly avoided scares, and more importantly, things seem much better than they were at this time two weeks ago.
“Winning is huge, Winning takes care of a ton of things,” said O’Brien. Indeed it does.
- Allen Robinson led the team in receiving yards for the fourth straight game.
- Robinson has the last four receiving touchdowns for Penn State and five of the last six.
- Zack Zwinak had six career carries heading into today’s game. He added eighteen more carries and ninety four yards to his name.
- Temple running backs Matt Brown and Montel Harris could not get anything going on the ground, combining for only forty nine yards on fourteen carries.
- In the first half, Temple registered 96 yards on offense. Michael Zordich had 101 by himself.
- Zordich suffered a bruised knee in the second half. O’Brien did not have much of an update after the game aside from joking “He’ll probably spit on it and be fine. He’s a tough kid.”
- Sean Stanley (back), Curtis Dukes (thigh), Donovan Smith (ankle/lower leg), and Bill Belton (ankle) all missed the game due to injury. It sounds as if all of them could be ready to go in Champaign next Saturday against Illinois.
- Attendance was announced at 93,680–the lowest of the three home games so far.
For a photo gallery of today’s game, click here.