After two seasons of solid performances against Northwestern, Matt McGloin may be licking his chops at the opportunity to take on the Wildcats with Penn State just hitting its stride.
Last season, the Penn State quarterback went 17-26 for 192 yards and two touchdowns. Two seasons ago, McGloin helped the Nittany Lions overcome a 21-point deficit while throwing for 225 yards and four scores.
On Saturday, the Wildcats will have to slow down McGloin if the team hopes to improve to 6-0.
“I don’t think we’re going to be able to stop him,” Pat Fitzgerald said. “I think we’re gonna have to be able to keep the ball inside and in front.”
Fitzgerald said McGloin has adopted first-year coach Bill O’Brien’s system – which Fitzgerald says is very different from Joe Paterno’s offense – extremely well.
“I think the system is very quarterback user-friendly, but at the same time I think they put a lot on the quarterback,” he said. “I think Matt’s picked it up incredibly well.”
So far this season, the Wildcats passing defense has been much improved compared to last year, giving up just seven touchdowns over five games – four in the Syracuse game alone.
Last week, however, the Wildcats were hurt by several deep passes from Indiana. Safety Jared Carpenter said the defensive backs have been in good position, but simply haven’t been able to make the plays. This week, they hope to change that.
“[McGloin’s] like several other quarterbacks, he wants to throw the ball up and let his receivers make plays,” Carpenter said. “It’ll be a challenge but we’re up to it … Big time players make big plays so we’ve just got to exhibit poise and do that.”
As Fitzgerald said, it’s unlikely NU will shut down McGloin. The senior is averaging 234 yards and two touchdowns per game so far this season. If McGloin has success, the key for the Wildcats will be maintaining their composure.
“As DBs, we’re the last line of defense,” cornerback Nick VanHoose said. “You’re gonna get scored on sometimes, regardless. Offenses are good and wide receivers are good. So once you get scored on, you’ve just got to have a short memory.”
McGloin is averaging 34 pass attempts per game, so the ‘Cats secondary is well aware that it is going to be tested in front of 105,000 screaming fans in Beaver Stadium. But according to Carpenter, they relish the challenge.
“As DBs," he explained, "we can’t get interceptions unless they throw the ball, so the more they throw it, the more opportunities we have to get interceptions.”