The list of Penn State quarterback Matt McGloin’s admirers grows despite his team’s slow start.
ESPN college football analyst and former NFL offensive lineman Ed Cunningham said in a telephone interview Thursday that McGloin looks comfortable in first-year coach Bill O’Brien’s offense.
“Matt McGloin is a good fit for what Bill O’Brien is trying to do,” said Cunningham, the analyst for Saturday’s game against Navy, which will be shown locally on ABC. “He’s good enough to run a little and he needs to be more decisive when he runs. But he has plenty of arm, he gets the ball out quickly, he’s accurate and he throws the long ball better than you would think.”
Only two things are missing through two games: wins and points.
The Nittany Lions enter Saturday’s game, which begins at 3:30 p.m., with an 0-2 record. They are averaging 15.5 points per game, which ranks 11th in the Big Ten.
Penn State moved the ball into Virginia territory 10 times last Saturday yet scored 16 points. The Nittany Lions have scored just 24 points on seven trips into the red zone through two games.
“I have played on teams like that,” Cunningham said. “It was like that my first two years in the NFL with the Cardinals. We really struggled inside the 30 and there are just a million reasons why it happens.”
Cunningham, who will also work next week’s Temple broadcast for ESPN, said the Nittany Lions are close to breaking out offensively.
“Without a doubt they can,” he said. “Allen Robinson is a good receiver and they have other serviceable receivers that can become good, the tight ends are legitimate players and they are used smartly in this offense, the middle of the offensive line is solid. If they get the tackle situation shored up and get some guys healthy like Bill Belton and Derek Day, I think this team can score and be one of the better offenses.”
Perhaps no player has benefited from O’Brien’s system more than McGloin. The fifth-year senior shared the starting quarterback job with Rob Bolden last season. McGloin won a spring quarterback derby that included Bolden, who has transferred to LSU, and sophomore Paul Jones, who will make his debut at ‘F’ tight end Saturday.
McGloin has completed 46 of 83 passes for 457 yards and four touchdowns. He said Thursday that not having to share the job has contributed to his solid start.
“It allows you to stay more relaxed out there, have fun, play the game, not allow yourself to press or try to force the ball downfield or force yourself to make plays that aren’t there,” he said.
McGloin showed grit against Virginia, absorbing two first-half blows to his right elbow. The second one forced him to leave the game. He returned early in the second half and led the Nittany Lions on a late drive to enter field goal range. Sam Ficken missed a 42-yarder as time expired, but the drive might lead to bigger things from McGloin.
“He’s gotten much better as a leader,” O’Brien said. “I would tell you in many ways that he’s grown up in the eight months since I have had him. He’s done a really good job of huddle command and being encouraging to his teammates and playing tough, playing through some injuries. I’m proud to be his coach.”
Guy Cipriano can be reached at 231-4643. Follow him on Twitter @cdtguy