The victory gave Penn State coach Joe Paterno career win No. 408, tying him with Grambling legend Eddie Robinson for second all-time, and most ever by a Division I coach.
The Nittany Lions' sixth straight win improved their record to 7-1 and 4-0 in the Big Ten, good for first place by themselves in the Leaders Division, and maybe good enough to get them into the Associated Press Top 25.
McGloin, who had played the majority of snaps in his team's previous four games, completed 17 of 26 passes for 192 yards and touchdowns on the Nittany Lions' first two drives, a 4-yard strike to Justin Brown and a 45-yard deep ball to Devon Smith. Silas Redd added a career-high 164 yards on 18 carries and scored a touchdown.
McGloin said he was told prior to the Purdue game that the coaches would alternate starting quarterbacks from week to week, and his turn came up Saturday night. He said he wasn't surprised that he went the distance.
"We were moving the ball great as an offense, and there was really no need to throw two guys in and out," the redshirt junior said. "I'm happy with the way it went. It's exciting that they have their trust and their faith in me to play the whole entire football game."
Asked if he felt the continuity of the offense was better with just one quarterback at the helm, he replied: "To be honest with you, I'm not sure.
"I just do what the coaches tell me," he said. "If they want me to play the whole game, I play it. If they want Rob to come in and out, that's what we're going to do. The offense played really well tonight."
Paterno said he kept playing McGloin because "the game was so back and forth, and I wasn't quite sure when to put him in."
However, Paterno deflected questions about committing to McGloin as the No. 1 guy.
"There will be days when Bolden will play and . . . hey, we won the game. We won the game," he said.
The Lions added two field goals by Anthony Fera in the first half and got a 1-yard run from Stephfon Green, his first touchdown of the season, with seven seconds left before intermission to take the lead for good at 27-24.
Penn State managed just one touchdown in the second half - Redd's 19-yard run, which came one play after linebacker Gerald Hodges intercepted a pass from Dan Persa, a ball that was tipped by tackle Jordan Hill, and returned it 63 yards.
The Nittany Lions didn't score in the final 26-plus minutes of the game. So they had to rely on their defense, which, despite allowing a season-high 406 yards to the Wildcats, picked up seven sacks and shut out its opponent in the second half.
"We were so anxious to get to [Persa] we left some gaps in the line," Paterno said. "In the second half, we tried a couple of other stunts, and the kids got more accustomed to the quarterbacks. At halftime, we changed a couple of things, and I thought they did a good job."
Hodges had an outstanding game, with the interception, 14 tackles, and 11/2 sacks.
Persa, who attended Bethlehem Liberty, completed 26 of 34 passes for 294 yards and one touchdown but suffered an apparent left foot or ankle injury when tackled early in the fourth quarter by Jack Crawford. He didn't return.
It didn't look good for Penn State at the start when Chaz Powell fumbled away the opening kickoff to Northwestern's Jeravin Matthews at the Lions 34, and the Wildcats scored in seven plays, capped by a 1-foot sneak by Persa on fourth and goal.
Now, the Hard Part
Penn State's win over Northwestern improved the Nittany Lions' record to 7-1, including 4-0 in the Leaders Division of the Big Ten, good for first place. But the remaining schedule may not be as kind. Here's what's left:
vs. Illinois/6-2 Saturday
Illini have been in AP Top 25 most of the year.
vs. Nebraska/6-1 Nov. 12
Cornhuskers' only loss was at unbeaten Wis.
at Wisconsin/6-0 Nov. 19
Badgers are ranked No. 4 and are scary at home.
at Ohio State/4-3 Nov. 26
A down year, but the Buckeyes still a tall order.
Contact staff writer Joe Juliano at 215-854-4494 or email@example.com.