"You never know until you get in there and see how you react against guys flying around you under those lights," he said. "That probably gave me more confidence than anything. I've always been confident in myself and my abilities. But that was definitely a good feeling at that moment to get into the game and get the victory."
After two years of battling Rob Bolden at quarterback, McGloin finally can call the team his own. The fifth-year senior is leading rookie head coach Bill O'Brien's new offense with a steady hand and more relaxed demeanor, thinking more instead of trying to make the heroic pass into tight coverage.
Going into Saturday's home game with 24th-ranked Northwestern (5-0), McGloin leads the Big Ten in passing yards at 243.4 per game and ranks second in touchdown passes (10) and completions per game (20.2) as the Lions have gone 3-2. He has thrown just two interceptions, or one in every 85 attempts, compared with one in every 32 throws his previous two seasons.
"I think what I'm doing better," he said, "is just going through my progressions, seeing the whole field, completing my reads, not focusing on one guy, going to my check-downs when I need to and taking what the defense gives me and managing the game."
It wasn't a simple transition between coaches for McGloin. O'Brien, the former offensive coordinator of the New England Patriots, brought in a new system in which, he said, "we put a lot on your plate" if you're a quarterback. He credited McGloin with putting in the necessary work to learn.
"You have to have a good deal of brain power and you have to be able to understand what you're watching on film," O'Brien said last week.
"Every week Matt has improved on what he sees and getting us into the right play and using little tricks of the trade to help himself to get us into the right play," O'Brien added. "So I believe he's improved every week."
McGloin gives O'Brien and quarterbacks coach Charlie Fisher the credit for his development.
"I'm kind of keeping my poise throughout the whole game now," he said.". . . Coach Fisher has definitely helped me out with the mental game. My mechanics are a lot better."
McGloin is 2-0 against Northwestern. He led the Lions to a 34-24 victory on the road last year by throwing two early touchdown passes.
Wildcats coach Pat Fitzgerald jokingly took exception to a suggestion that McGloin had enjoyed "some success" against his team.
"I wouldn't say Matt's had some success," he said. "I think Matt's had a ton of success. He's killed us."
McGloin is not looking for another signature moment against Northwestern this weekend. He'd just be happy with a win.
"We're preparing as hard as we can this week," he said. "We understand that we have to play our best on Saturday because it's the best team we've played so far."
Matt McGloin's statistics last season and so far this season at Penn State:
125/231 Cm./Att. 101/170
1,571 Yards 1,217
8 TD 10
5 Int. 2
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