Believe it or not, BSD's resident teeny-bopper has not gotten into the "Twilight" series, and frankly doesn't quite get the whole Team Jacob vs. Team Edward vs. Team Whoever thing, much to the chagrin of my lady friends. What I do get is that Penn State has a full on quarterback controversy right now and it's time for a good old fashioned debate. Representing Team Matthew McGloin and its head cheerleader, we have the esteemed Spakajewia. Yours truly will be the advocate of Team Robert Bolden. Let's get this party started-Fooge
When Collin Wagner kicked his first field goal to put the Nittany Lions up 31-10 Saturday night, the TV cameras caught Matt McGloin congratulating the kicking team as they came off the field. As an isolated incident, the moment is meaningless, but in the context of this year’s Penn State team, it helps demonstrate why McGloin should be the first player off the bus against Northwestern.
Matt McGloin should start on Saturday because he gives this team two things they’ve been sorely lacking: leadership and attitude. After the loss to Alabama, Joe Paterno said in his weekly press conference:
[The team] didn’t have any fun down there. We were too tight…I think they were nervous about playing a big game….I don’t know if we’ve got anybody who [is a leader]…when you’ve got a lot of guys that… lack that all-out attitude, it takes a while to get some.
No one has more all-out attitude on this team than Matt McGloin. Though corny to say and impossible to prove, McGloin has a lot of intangibles that would help any team win, and those intangibles are particularly needed on this Penn State team. Before Saturday night, the team seemed to lack any personality, any attitude, any swagger. Enter Matt McGloin and 3-5 days of untended facial hair.
Rob Bolden is a solid quarterback with tremendous fundamentals and more athletic ability than McGloin. I believe Bolden is the quarterback of Penn State’s future, but McGloin should be the QB now. On leadership, Bolden just doesn’t offer what this team needs. He is shy by disposition and since he’s only been on campus for a few months, it’s natural for him to be reluctant to call his teammates out either for making a mistake or for not having enough fun. I can’t recall watching Bolden ever congratulating the kicking team the way McGloin did on Saturday. And that was one of several such examples were you could see McGloin take a leadership role.
McGloin isn’t the better athlete, but he can play the position at a high level. Even though his footwork is ugly and his arm isn’t particularly strong, he can make throws. He showed tremendous timing on screens all night against Michigan, and hit his receiver perfectly in stride on a few three-step drops.
Indeed, one reason I’d been frustrated with the offensive play-calling all year was because the coaches failed to call a lot of three-step drops. The first interception Bolden threw in Alabama was a perfect example. A crucial third down in the redzone, you know the pressure is coming. Make the QB get rid of the ball early. But the coaches put Bolden under center and had him take a seven-step drop. Meanwhile, they ran a high number of three-step drops with McGloin Saturday night, which makes me think the problem wasn’t with the play-calling, it was with the small playbook available to use with Bolden.
Matt McGloin proved on Saturday night that he has the athletic ability needed to compete at this level. More importantly, he showed that he has the personality and leadership this team needs to win. McGloin despite them (h/t Millzners).
Take nothing away from Matt McGloin and his performance Saturday night against Michigan. He certainly looked like a man that deserves a shot at the starting quarterback job, and if nothing else took a big step toward living down the dreaded "McFavre" label by playing smart and not making big mistakes.
Nevertheless, when the coaching staff named Robert Bolden the starting quarterback to open the season, it invested valuable snaps against tough defenses like Alabama and Iowa in him with the expectation that lessons learned in those games would pay off in contests like this weekend's home match up with Northwestern.
For that reason, Penn State needs to stand by its decision and keep Bolden in the starter's role a while longer.
It's rare that you see an experience argument made for a true freshman, but Bolden has already played a lot of football against quality defenses that some quarterbacks may not face once in their whole careers. Joe Paterno himself said in his press conference yesterday that there really isn't a whole lot of difference in the two players' ability right now. In my mind, it's the experience against top competition that's the real separator of the two.
Lessons learned under pressure are things you just can't get in practice or even spot starts against terrible defenses like Michigan's. That's not to say McGloin couldn't have performed as well or better than Bolden if he'd been given the opportunity, but he wasn't, and that's the key. Bolden has those lessons in his pocket where McGloin does not.
We've seen the freshman take his lumps. We've seen him make his mistakes. Now is the time when we get to see what he's learned from it all. At the time of his injury, Bolden had completed 11/13 passes against Minnesota. Of course, it was against Minnesota, but we saw what might have been the beginnings of the freshman's break out. It's one thing for that momentum to be broken up by injury, it's another to be broken up by the people who put him in the position to establish that momentum in the first place.
It should be noted that Joe Paterno is probably doing the right thing in opening a competition for the job this week. It's clear there's room for a healthy competition and that's never a bad thing. Who knows? McGloin could absolutely kill it in practice and show the coaches he's visibly ready for the competition to be cranked up a notch against a solid Northwestern team.
Ultimately, though, Bolden has done nothing to lose the job yet and with his experience in some of Penn State's stickiest situations this year, he's probably best suited to deal with whatever the Wildcats might throw at him on Saturday.