Paterno goes for No. 400 amid Penn State quarterback controversy

Posted: November 03, 2010

Joe Paterno has been at Penn State so long, his coaching career could be a course offering for history majors. Hey, the 83-year-old icon arrived on campus in 1950 and replaced Rip Engle as head coach of the Nittany Lions in 1966. If that isn't ancient stuff to your average college student these days, what is?

Since Paterno is downplaying the historic significance of his next milestone - he's going for his 400th career victory on Saturday afternoon, when the Nits (5-3, 2-2 Big Ten Conference) host Northwestern (6-2, 2-2) in sold-out Beaver Stadium - of perhaps greater interest to students and fans is who'll be the starting quarterback. Will it be true freshman Rob Bolden, who is coming off a concussion that caused him to miss Saturday night's home game against Michigan and much of the preceding contest at Minnesota? Or does redshirt sophomore Matt McGloin, who played well in both games and sparked the previously sluggish offense in back-to-back victories, have the inside track?

Paterno, a creature of habit who prefers to settle on one guy before the season and stick with him as long as his play reasonably merits it, was uncharacteristically coy when asked who'll take the field for the opening offensive series. Then again, he anticipated what was coming and was prepared for it.

"I would have bet a hundred bucks that would be the first question," a chuckling JoePa responded.

Truth be told, the remainder of the season might not come down to pronouncing one player as the No. 1 QB and the other as No. 2. Paterno is daring to suggest that it might be more a case of No. 1 and No. 1A. A dual-quarterback arrangement at Penn State is somewhat untraditional, but strange times call for strange measures.

"I think we'll let them compete and decide at the end of the week who's going to start," Paterno said of the unusual in-season duel for playing time. "But I would imagine maybe we'll have to rethink playing one kid. Maybe we'll play both."

Quarterback controversies are, well, kind of sexy. They are the football equivalent of gossip columnists speculating about the identity of Paris Hilton's boyfriend du jour, or which rock group will get the marquee gig at the next Lollapalooza. And while Paterno is not averse to shuffling starters at other positions, to even consider rotating his quarterbacks, particularly this deep into a season, is a bit of an oddity.

Some of the more notable quarterback battles at Penn State invariably have ended with a winner emerging: Todd Blackledge over Jeff Hostetler, Daryll Clark over Pat Devlin. The miffed losers reacted by transferring.

The closest thing to what's happening now between Bolden and McGloin found Rashard Casey and Kevin Thompson jostling for playing time in 1998 and '99, and Zack Mills and Michael Robinson doing likewise in the early 2000s.

In the past, Paterno has heeded his own counsel when it came to selecting his quarterback. This preseason was different in that he polled his staff to settle a three-way shootout involving Bolden, McGloin and soph Kevin Newsome, with a fourth candidate, true freshman Paul Jones, fitted for a redshirt. The consensus was that the 6-3, 221-pound Bolden, a four-star recruit from Orchard Lake, Mich., gave the Nits the best chance to win now and in the future.

But Bolden has been restricted in part by his inexperience and a raft of injuries to the offense. After some rough stretches, he was having his best game of the season against Minnesota, completing 11 of 13 passes for 130 yards and a touchdown, when he went out in the second quarter with a concussion.

Enter McGloin, the 6-1, 209-pound walk-on from West Scranton High, who is as extroverted as Bolden is quiet and reserved. McGloin passed for two touchdowns against Minnesota, and he followed that up with a 17-for-28, 250-yard, two-TD (one rushing) performance in last week's 41-31 victory over Michigan.

Quarterbacks coach Jay Paterno, pleased as he was with McGloin's effort against the Wolverines, stressed that Bolden would reassume the starting position this week. But the elder Paterno always has the final say in these matters, and he's apparently not ready to etch any decision in stone.

"They're both very conscientious kids and serious about getting better," Paterno said. "They work hard at it. The kids on the team respect both of them. They have different personalities, but they both have their own way of leading."

Nits fire mascot

The man behind Penn State's Nittany Lion mascot has been fired.

Penn State assistant athletic director Jeff Nelson said cheerleading coach Curtis White has confirmed the dismissal of mascot Clint Gyory because he broke a team rule. Nelson declined further comment yesterday. Gyory did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

Officials said earlier that police had issued underage drinking, public drunkenness and criminal mischief citations to Gyory on Aug. 1. Gyory was suspended for the month of September.

Another student who served as the mascot was suspended for the 2009 Rose Bowl against Southern California after a DUI charge.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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