Blue White Roundtable: Alabama Week Edition
September 7, 2011 – | 1 Comment

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Ohio State 38, Penn State 14: The Curious Case of Matt McMorelli

Submitted by on November 13, 201012 Comments

If last week’s game was a tale of two halves, then this was part 2 of that story. But unlike last week’s chapter, when Penn State rallied from a 21-point deficit to win going away, well, this was the exact opposite. This time it was Penn State going up early, then imploding in the second half, unable to move the ball or stop the opposing offense. Last week, it was Penn State finishing the game with 35 unanswered points. This week, it was their opponent doing the exact same. The roller coaster came to an end.

Pick-six, take one. (Photo credit: ESPN/AP)
Ah, but what a ride it was. In that first half, Matt McGloin was nothing short of brilliant–drawing not just the typical cloying praise from Brent Musberger and Kirk Herbstreit (who couldn’t go two sentences without mentioning McGloin’s “moxie”) but also the admiration and respect of an entire fanbase. Those of us who were waiting to pass judgement, waiting to see what the walk-on could do against a real defense? We were just as impressed. Joe’s decision to go with McGloin in the Horseshoe looked like a brilliant one.

After an initial drive ended with a three-and-out, McGloin went to work–leadng Penn State to back-to-back touchdown scores, and I do mean leading. Unlike last week’s second half, this one wasn’t about the run game, this was about Matt McGloin throwing dart after dart–down the field, to the sidelines, over the middle. Frankly, you would’ve guessed that he was the highly recruited stud out of high school, especially as Terrelle Pryor struggled.  He started the game by completing 11 of his first 13 passes–13 of his 18 in the first half–and his success was infectious. The offensive line blocked for him, the receivers hauled in passes, and Penn State took a 14-3 lead into the half–and it would’ve been more, had Joe Paterno settled for a 37-yard field goal instead of going for it on 4th and 1 from the Ohio State 20–the only 4th down attempt of the three they tried in that first half that failed to pick up a new set of downs.

But few could complain–we were up, after all, and we’d scored more points–14–than we ever had in the Big Ten era at Ohio State. And that first half wasn’t predicated on big plays or lucky bounces–Penn State absolutely dominated all facets of the game.The defense bent, but didn’t break on the first series–holding the Buckeyes to a field goal after a 50-yard bomb got them inside the 10. But after that, Ohio State didn’t even threaten. The drives either picked up 1 first down, or went three-and-out.

We were riding high. It was hard to believe that we’d collapse so thoroughly.

But that’s exactly what happened in the second half. Penn State got the ball to start the 3rd quarter and made a decent drive out of it, getting to midfield before punting–and Anthony Fera pinned Ohio State inside their 5. A false start penalty pinned the Buckeyes back to their 2. The most optimistic among us were thinking safety. Ohio State was thinking touchdown. A 3rd and 4-dump off to Boom Herron simply embarrassed Bani Gbadyu in space–a good open field tackle would’ve forced a punt. But Bani, as he always seems to be, was incapable of making the stop. Ohio State picked up 19 yards and a first down, and that opened the floodgates. Eight plays later, Ohio State had their first touchdown of the day.

But hey, we were still leading. And McGloin had moxie and poise, and all those other adjectives people use to describe a quarterback who’s winning when they really can’t compliment his athletic ability. But his luck ran out on the 4th play of the ensuing drive–an out route was picked off by cornerback Devon Torrence–who McGloin had been throwing at all day–and he took it down the sideline for a touchdown. All of a sudden, Ohio State was up, 17-14.  And things just got worse–as you could’ve guessed, given the final score. Terrelle Pryor lobbed a deep ball on 2nd and 23 that was tipped away from DeVier Posey–but right to Dane Sanzenbacher, who caught the luckiest 59-yard touchdown in history. Down by 10, Penn State got the ball back, needing a score, but Anthony Morelli Matt McGloin threw another pick-6, effectively ending the game.

...and take 2. (Photo credit: ESPN/AP)

This wasn’t all on McGloin–the quarterback always gets far too much credit for a win and far too much blame for a loss. But the numbers speak for themselves–he was a disgusting 2-12 in the second half–completing as many passes to Buckeye defenders as Penn State receivers. Staring down your receivers works against the Michigans and Northwesterns of the world, but Jim Tressel started to realize that McGloin wasn’t making multiple reads. Defenders sat on the short routes, and threw McGloin off his game.  His 2 touchdown passes were canceled out by the pair of pick-sixes.

In the first, he carved up the Ohio State defense, and looked comfortable doing it–in the second, the run game was stifled, the offensive line overwhelmed, and the receivers shaky. In other words–he got the Rob Bolden treatment, and looked worse than Bolden ever did during the Iowa or Alabama games. I sincerely hope that this is the end of the Matt McGloin experiment–we saw what he could do against a real defense, and not-exactly-shockingly, it’s not quite the same as what he could do against Michigan or Northwestern.

We might’ve predicted it would go like this–generally speaking. That Ohio State would come out sluggish, off the bye, that Penn State would stick around early and fall apart late. That Matt McGloin’s luck would run out. But I’m not sure any of us expected it to come crashing down quite so hard. The defense–playing without Mike Mauti, who left the game with an apparent arm (?) injury–got bullied at the point of attack, and failed to wrap up at the second level. Ohio State was marching down the field at will, running for 315 yards in the game–and that was without the benefit of an impressive performance from Terrelle Pryor.  Evan Royster and Stephfon Green both left the game with injuries, and learned that Silas Redd isn’t ready to be the man just yet–despite a pair of breathtaking runs, he finished the game with just 41 yards on 12 carries.

Don’t let anyone fool you–this is far from the end of the world. Despite a near-perfect 1st half, Penn State simply isn’t on the same level as Ohio State–not now, at least. Few could’ve expected us to win this game, and we performed about as well as an unbiased observer suggested–the Vegas sportsbooks, who put the Nittany Lions as 18-point underdogs.  There are still two more games left in the regular season–one next week against an Indiana team that just lost by 63 to Wisconsin–we’ll chalk that one up as a win. And Sparty isn’t unbeatable–especially at Beaver Stadium, where they’ve never won.

But for now, expect all the discussion to center around the quarterback position, where Penn State once again has a controversy. You can be sure Joe Paterno won’t name a starter until the middle of the week, but I’ll be, at least privately, hoping it’s Rob Bolden. Matt McGloin is easy to root for–and when he’s on, boy is it fun. But Bolden is still the future of this program, and plenty of former McGloin supporters are surely jumping off that bandwagon after it turned out that his “moxie” could only go so far.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/tloebig Thomas R Loebig

    Oh please. A bad half against a top-10 team and you’re calling him McMorelli? What a bunch of crap. Yes, he wasn’t any good after the half. But he’ll man-up for his mistakes, something Morelli never would. The kid has a ton of heart and yes, moxie. Give him a break.

  • Dmarcellus721

    Do not compare him to QB14. This was lack of experience. That kid is all heart.

  • BD05

    McGloin’s bad half against a top 10 team was so so so much worse than Bolden’s entire game against the No. 1 team. A game in which was his second ever collegiate start, away. Oh please… The Matt McGloin experiment should be over. It was enjoyable while it lasted, but the brass at Penn State should not be so blinded to continue with Cindarella over a top QB recruit, which is antithesis to what Penn State usually brings in at the position.

  • Darenp124

    Watching that second half was like listening to nails on a chalkboard. Can’t totally fault McGloin when he delivered the first 2 passing TDs against the Buckeyes in the shoe since joining the B10 though.

  • kirko

    I just so happened on to your blog from BSD and I have to admit I think you are entirely off base. Matt McGloin gave us the best chance to win this game and he kept us around until the 4th quarter. Against Alabama 14-0 at halftime. Iowa was 17-3 at the half. The halftime score of this game, in case you forgot already, 14-3 in favor of the good guys. We were at least competing in this game for 3/4′s of it. We never had a chance against Bama or Iowa.

    Sure McGloin made his fair share of mistakes. And sure injuries hampered us both offensively and defensively (then again so did the play calling and being out-coached and out-played in the second half). But like you said the QB gets far too much criticism in defeat. Sure two pick sixes were detrimental in the second half but what about the 2TD’s he led us too? What about the most points we’ve ever scored in the horseshoe? does that not speak volumes for the kid and his leadership, the intangibles?

    Sure you can look on paper and say the stats between McGloin at OSU and Bolden’s average between Bama and Iowa are about on par with each other. But there is more to it that stats. McGloin’s second career start was Ohio State. Bolden’s was at Bama. Bolden’s FIFTH game was at Iowa. McGloin’s FOURTH game was Ohio State. See something here? McGloin, in his second career start, did so much more in the OSU game than Bolden probably dreamed about doing against Bama. Likewise in their fifth and fourth games played respectfully.

    Sure Bolden is “the future.” Move to Miami with LeBron and keep talking like this. McGloin has two years left. He has two more years of program experience than Bolden. He was the intangibles. Bolden will get his. Let him wait two years like McGloin to shine. Let him wait two years like D Clark did.

    It’s unfortunate the only reason Bolden probably got the start this season had nothing to do with on field performance. It probably had everything to do with JayPa telling him he was going to start and having to abide by his sloppy recruiting tactics.

    Until Bolden actually keeps us competitive in a big game (which hopefully won’t happen until 2012) the McNittany Lions should be led by the red head.

  • kirko

    “… which hopefully won’t happen until 2013…” My apologies

  • MWeaver

    remember though…Bama has two losses…and they weren’t impressive against a Penn State team that had many similar mistakes (Red Zone TOs)…a Red Zone TO can be just as bad as an INT for a TD (six point swing)…and do you think Bolden or Jones expected to start this year anyway? Newsome was thought to be the guy…if they leave PSU now, they don’t have the guts and determination that you would want out of a PS football player anyway…things are just getting interesting!!!!

  • Misdreavus79

    So you’re saying because DC17 had to wait two years, Bolden should have to as well. Has history not told enough already?

  • Misdreavus79

    Furthermore, you can’t have your cake and eat it too. You can’t try to explain that the entire team wasn’t performing well when McGloin struggled, and on the same sentence completely ignore how much the team was sucking when Bolden struggled.

    Another point is, given that McGloin has experience with the team over Bolden, you’d expect him to perform better if he’s the better QB, no?

  • Anonymous

    “Sure two pick sixes were detrimental in the second half but what about the 2TD’s he led us too? What about the most points we’ve ever scored in the horseshoe? ”

    They entirely cancel each other out. Matt McGloin led us to a net zero points against Ohio State.

    You’re obviously a McGloin apologist. My guess is you really only like him because he’s white and scrappy and you’re probably from NEPA. Bolden today is just as good as McGloin–at worst, maybe an iota worse. He’s also been in the program since June, while McGloin’s had 3 years to get to this point. Bolden never went 2-12 with 2 interceptions in a single half. His numbers against Iowa were better than Daryll Clark’s in either of Clark’s 2 games against the Hawkeyes. If he’s not a better QB right now, he certainly will be, without any shred of a doubt, by day 1 of the 2011 season. McGloin has a pop-gun arm and the second Ohio State realized the offensive gameplan was to take 3-step drops and get the ball out quickly they started sitting on the inside routes and jumping the quick outs. That’s not bad gameplanning, that’s being hamstrung by a quarterback who doesn’t have a division 1 arm. There’s a reason he didn’t get a scholarship out of high school, kiddo. Because he’s really not very good.

  • Anonymous

    Let’s not forget just how heinously bad the offensive line was at the start of the year. Just shockingly, painfully bad. It’s not GREAT now, but they’re at least functioning. If McGloin was behind the line Bolden had against Alabama, he never would’ve gotten us to a 14-3 lead.

  • BD05

    There was a great comment over at The Case For Matt McGloin that I thought should be added and paraphrased here. The OSU defense that showed up in the second half was much the same as the quality defenses Bolden was facing and learning against at Bama and Iowa. Like you said, Bolden never went 2-12 with 2 Pick Sixes, let alone interceptions against them… and he’s only been in the program and playbook since June. I think the major difference is Bolden’s instincts to read the field, as well as having a legit arm for needle threading throws.

    It also seems to me, the string was pulled on Bolden after returning from injury and giving up a sack fumble, a lot of which I put on the O-Line. Granted, he should have seen and manuevered. So why is the string not pulled on McGloin after a solid D made adjustments specifically to him and exposed just how weak of a QB he is. No arm, and No real instincts. We saw Bolden master multiple reads on his first career TD pass and I don’t care what team that was against. The point it, he naturally did it.

    I love Penn State and will route for them no matter what, because at the end of the day the kids move on through and the uniform remains. However, I am so discouraged with what I am seeing with this self inflicted QB controversy because it seems so pointless and dumb. Bolden’s confidence has to be shredded and for what? Why throw the true freshman in to face the likes of Bama and Iowa, on the road, only to pull him half way through the season? Perhaps there is something else going on that got him in Joe’s infamous doghouse, who knows… but this whole thing merits further investigation because I don’t really think it can be debated with what we’ve seen, that Bolden is the better QB and the future.