At some point, a team needs its quarterback to show up and step up.
Matthew McGloin waited nearly 57 minutes to do so Saturday at Beaver Stadium. But with Penn State on life support, needing to go 80 yards to preserve its undefeated Big Ten record, McGloin rose to the occasion.
Thanks to McGloin's heroics and Illinois kicker Derek Dimke's first missed field-goal attempt of the season, Penn State survived 10-7. The Lions are the only team without a loss in Big Ten play, and coach Joe Paterno notched his 409th win to surpass Eddie Robinson for the Division I record.
McGloin led a Penn State offense that looked worse than it has all season -- and that's saying something -- on a 10-play, 80-yard scoring drive. McGloin went 4-for-6 passing for 48 yards on the game-winning march and had another pass dropped by senior Derek Moye, who surprisingly returned to the field after missing two games with a broken bone in his foot.
Before the decisive drive, McGloin had gone 5-of-18 for 50 yards and an interception. Fellow QB Rob Bolden had looked even worse. Penn State's season long quarterback mess was, well, messy.
But if there's one thing you can say about McGloin it's that he never gives up or stops believing in himself, even when few others do. Credit the junior for finding a way against an Illinois defense playing at an extremely high level. He also got help from sophomore running back Silas Redd, who had another huge performance (30 carries, 137 yards, TD), including the game-winnning touchdown run.
Illinois drops its third straight game, and no loss was more heart-wrenching than today's. The Illini defense played great, but the offense once again took a while to get going. Illinois botched a field goal and missed another, and the team drew six penalties, including a debatable pass inference call on cornerback Justin Green that set up Penn State's winning score. The laces appeared to be in on Dimke's miss at the end. As Ray Finkle will tell you, LACES OUT!
How is Penn State 8-1? Many will ponder that question during the next two weeks. Defense and Redd have something to do with it, and McGloin stepped up when the Lions needed him most.
Penn State now enters a bye week before its decisive stretch of the season against Nebraska, Ohio State and Wisconsin. The easy part is over for JoePa's crew, but Penn State controls its own fate in the Leaders Division.