Penn State playing together
O'Brien's immediate influence can be seen in QB McGloin's rise
You know the headlines Penn State generated throughout the Jerry Sandusky case. They'll never go away.
The Penn State football program will endure four years of bowl bans and scholarship reductions in the wake of the former defensive coordinator and now convicted child molester. The school quickly accepted the bowl ban and dodged as many as four years of NCAA-mandated football shutdown.
Bill O'Brien's Nittany Lions aren't a perfect team, but you will see a unified, cohesive, tough-minded team when the Hawkeyes (4-2, 2-0 Big Ten) play host to Penn State (4-2, 2-0) 7 p.m. Saturday (Big Ten Network) at Kinnick Stadium.
Penn State, on the field, with helmets on and a coach under the phones, is now an uplifting story.
The crescendo came two weeks ago at Beaver Stadium, when the Lions staged a rousing comeback victory over Northwestern with a 22-point fourth quarter. Quarterback Matt McGloin, who O'Brien made No. 1 after spring practice, completed 35 passes and two TDs. Junior fullback/running back Zach Zwinak rushed for 121 yards.
Simply put, it's football.
It's not the grotesquerie of the Sandusky case. It's football, players playing and coaches coaching all between the lines that mean everything to them.
"It's football, man, it's football," O'Brien told the Harrisburg (Pa.) Patriot-News after the Northwestern comeback, putting oomph on the second "football." "I get anal about my kids and my family and my wife. I don't get too anal about football.”
O'Brien is fresh off a five-year stint under New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick, who reinvents his team every few years. In the last couple, the Patriots have ramped up tempo, running a no-huddle, hurry-up offense that launches off one word. O'Brien was the Patriots offensive coordinator last season and has brought a taste of that tempo with him to State College.
The Lions went "NASCAR" -- the actual name for the quick offensive mode -- on Northwestern. Of course, it ran over the Wildcats.
"We're going do what we think is best for the offense and best for the team at that time," said McGloin, who leads the Big Ten in passing yards per game (249.8), TD passes (12, tied with Nebraska's Taylor Martinez) and is second in completions (136) and yards (1,499). "If that's going no-huddle, running it, passing it, whatever, we're going do it and do it successfully.”
Last season in a 13-3 victory over the Hawkeyes at Beaver Stadium, McGloin stayed out of the way as much as he steered. He was still looking over his shoulder at Rob Bolden, who eventually transferred to LSU. Bolden started the last two seasons before bowing to McGloin.
This year, O'Brien was decisive. He let them compete during spring and then on June 1, the school announced via Twitter that McGloin was the starter.
“You get into a rhythm of calling plays in a drive and you've been with this kid, Number 11, for nine months now," O'Brien said after Northwestern. "You know the plays that he likes and you feel good about the rhythm that he's in. So, you just keep it going.
“You're only looking for two yards. Hopefully, you can squeeze a pass in there or he can scramble or something good can happen because you know he's gonna make the right decision.”
There's a comfort level and that has radiated. Sophomore wide receiver Allen Robinson is along for the ride. He caught three passes last season. This year, he's second in the Big Ten with 41 catches for 524 yards and seven TDs.
“If you ask Coach O'Brien, he'll tell you, he just calls the plays,” McGloin said. “We're out there running them. I'm out there making checks. Those guys are out there blocking.
“I mean, he'll tell you: He's just calling plays and we're playing the game.”
The oomph was on "we're" and that is so Penn State.
|Passing Yards:||M. McGloin||1499|
|Passing TDs:||M. McGloin||12|
|Rushing Yards:||Z. Zwinak||317|
|Rushing TDs:||M. McGloin||5|
|Receiving Yards:||A. Robinson||524|
|Receiving TDs:||A. Robinson||7|
|Passing Yards:||J. Vandenberg||1134|
|Passing TDs:||J. Vandenberg||2|
|Rushing Yards:||M. Weisman||631|
|Rushing TDs:||M. Weisman||8|
|Receiving Yards:||K. Davis||373|
|Receiving TDs:||J. Cotton||1|
Sideline shot of KF hugging James at 14:13. One of the ages.