Pat Fitzgerald couldn‚??t help but laugh. Asked about Matt McGloin having some success against his team, the Northwestern coach considered it an understatement.
‚??I wouldn‚??t say he‚??s had ‚??some‚?? success,‚?Ě Fitzgerald said. ‚??Matt‚??s had a ton of success. He‚??s killed us.‚?Ě
Northwestern will be the first team McGloin faces for a third time when the No. 24 Wildcats hit Happy Valley for today‚??s noon kickoff. He can only hope this time goes as well as the last two.
In beating the Wildcats twice, McGloin has gone 35-of-55 passing for 417 yards, six touchdowns and no turnovers. He didn‚??t start the 2010 game at Beaver Stadium, but he sure finished it, leading the Lions back from a 21-point hole for a 35-21 win.
It was, at the time, Joe Paterno‚??s 400th career victory.
‚??You never know what type of player you are until you see how you react under those lights,‚?Ě McGloin said. ‚??That just gave me more confidence. I‚??ve always had confidence in myself, but that was definitely a good feeling in that moment.‚?Ě
Last year McGloin started and went the distance in another shootout win against the Wildcats. It was his first start of the season in the midst of an arduous timeshare with Rob Bolden.
There‚??s no question it‚??s his game today against the undefeated Cats, who enter with their first national ranking in four years.
Lions coach Bill O‚??Brien wasn‚??t around to see those last two performances, but he believes they should help his senior quarterback today.
‚??Sure. I think any time you play a team you‚??ve had success against, you go in with a certain amount of confidence,‚?Ě O‚??Brien said on his weekly radio show. ‚??But again, it‚??s a new team and a new year. That‚??s an excellent football team. They‚??re a 5-0 team that just cracked the top 25.
‚??Matt‚??s going to have to play extremely well for us to win the game.‚?Ě
For his part, McGloin said that while he has plenty of good memories of those Northwestern games, they aren‚??t on his mind this weekend.
The senior from Scranton downplayed his results in the series, saying there wasn‚??t anything specific about the Cats that he was able to exploit.
‚??That‚??s just the way it‚??s been,‚?Ě McGloin said. ‚??I don‚??t pay too much attention to what I‚??ve done against one team. Obviously they‚??re not going to play us the same. You really can‚??t go back and look too much in past. It‚??s going to be tough.‚?Ě
After five weeks, McGloin leads the Big Ten in passing yards (1,217) and is second in touchdowns (10), completions (101) and attempts (170). He also has four rushing scores on the season, meaning he has figured in on 14 of the Lions‚?? 17 touchdowns this season.
That‚??s not to say there‚??s not room for improvement.
McGloin has rarely been sacked this season, but he went down three times last week against Illinois, the result of holding onto the ball for too long. One of the sacks came in Illinois territory and dropped the team back a whopping 19 yards.
‚??Just a couple of brain farts,‚?Ě McGloin said. ‚??A couple times we weren‚??t on the same page up front. We fixed it already this week. It won‚??t be a problem this week.‚?Ě
The opportunity for a third straight solid showing against Northwestern is there. The Wildcats rank just 106th in the country in pass defense, allowing 289 yards per game through the air.
Northwestern will be without injured safety Hunter Bates for the game, but top defensive back Ibraheim Campbell has recovered enough to practice all week and will be able to play.
‚??We‚??ve got to be gap-sound,‚?Ě Fitzgerald said. ‚??Matt‚??s got great escapability and he moves well in the pocket. He‚??s very crafty. He understands the position and he‚??s done a great job picking up coach O‚??Brien‚??s system. He understands where to go with the ball.
‚??He knows his strengths and weaknesses, and he‚??s taking what the defense is giving him. He‚??s playing really well right now.‚?Ě