Courtesy of MCT
The eyes of Columbus have looked upon one star quarterback, Ohio State sophomore Braxton Miller, as he has led the Buckeyes to an 8-0 start this season while establishing himself as a potential Heisman candidate. But as the Buckeyes prepare to take on another Big Ten team that has yet to lose a conference game this season, another quarterback has come into focus.
Penn State will welcome the No. 9 Buckeyes to University Park, Pa. at 5:30 p.m. Saturday, and is on a five-game winning streak after an 0-2 start. The Nittany Lions’ offense, which ranks 45th nationally in passing offense, is led by redshirt signal-caller Matt McGloin.
In McGloin’s first season under first-year coach Bill O’Brien, who is well-known for his time coaching two-time NFL MVP Tom Brady with the New England Patriots, his statistics have improved significantly. Through seven games, McGloin has completed 62.5 percent of his passes and has thrown for 255.4 yards per game, in comparison to a 54.1 completion percentage and 130.9 passing yards per game as a junior.
McGloin said that PSU’s offense operates “completely differently” this year but expects the Buckeyes, who lost to the Nittany Lions, 20-14, in Ohio Stadium last season, to be prepared.
“They’re a well-coached football team, I’m sure they’ll be prepared,” McGloin said. “They’re a very good defense, they have a lot of good athletes, so we have to step up to the challenge.”
Everett Withers, OSU assistant head coach and co-defensive coordinator, said McGloin is the “most efficient passer” the Buckeyes will have played this season.
“He knows exactly where he wants to go with the ball,” Withers said. “He does a nice job buying time in the pocket. He will escape the rush, he’ll move left and right and he finds the right guy. So I would say he’s probably if not the best, one of the top two (passers) that we’ve seen so far this year.”
OSU coach Urban Meyer said McGloin’s play is “much improved” this season but also attributed McGloin’s success to his team as a whole.
“He’s always been a very accurate passer, but the guys around him are playing much better as well,” Meyer said.
Meyer said he has “great respect” for O’Brien, while Withers acknowledged that O’Brien has likely played a role in McGloin’s success this season.
“He’s got all the mannerisms as Tom Brady,” Withers said of McGloin. “I think it’s probably a bonus for him to have that type of coach.”
McGloin said the Penn State offense runs some similar plays to what Brady does with the New England, but did not compare himself to the Patriots quarterback.
“I wouldn’t compare myself to him in any way,” McGloin said of Brady.
As for the talent around McGloin, Meyer said PSU has “very, very good football players.”
“Penn State’s got great football players right now … playing very well, they’re very well-coached,” Meyer said. “There’s no shortage of talent at Penn State.”
Buckeyes offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Tom Herman said the Nittany Lions’ defense, which ranks 13th nationally with only 15.7 points allowed per game, will be the “best defense that we’ve played so far this year.”
Meyer said the Penn State defense is as good this year as it has ever been.
“Defensively, they’re every bit what they’ve been in the past,” Meyer said. “(The) defensive front is very strong, active guys. One’s a great player, No. 47 (senior defensive tackle Jordan Hill), and (redshirt linebacker Michael) Mauti is a great player as well.”
Hill was named Big Ten defensive player of the week for his performance in last Saturday’s game against Iowa, in which he recorded nine tackles and two tackles for loss, while Mauti leads the Nittany Lions with 65 tackles and three interceptions through the team’s first seven games.
The Buckeyes also must adjust to playing on the road in Penn State’s Beaver Stadium, which redshirt cornerback Travis Howard called “one of the craziest atmospheres” he has played in.
“We (are) going to have a tough job because we’re playing them at their house, and it’s always a tough environment going over there,” Howard said. “We just have to be prepared and just go with the game plan.”