PSU offense improves despite setbacks

September, 26, 2012
9/26/12
3:33
PM ET
Matt McGloin chuckled when asked whether this offense was an improvement over last year.

He didn't point out his conference-leading nine touchdown passes or argue how the Nittany Lions are spending more time in opponent territory than in the locker room. No, he just stifled a laugh.

[+] EnlargeBill O'Brien
AP Photo/Gene J. PuskarMatt McGloin believes this season's offense is markedly better than last season's.
"What kind of question is that, man? You can't compare the two," he said in a light-hearted prodding Wednesday. "It's different philosophies. All I'm saying is that I'm happy to be in the offense this year."

Despite four new starters on the offensive line, starting four different tailbacks in four weeks and watching three wideouts leave since the spring, this offense has transformed from a run-up-the-middle slumber party to one where adjectives such as "exciting" and "high-powered" are no longer used ironically.

Former quarterbacks coach Jay Paterno struggled building offensive foundations with four- and-five star talent (Kevin Newsome, Paul Jones, Rob Bolden). But Bill O'Brien and Charlie Fisher have molded an above-average Big Ten quarterback out of a former walk-on.

Penn State's leading receiver, Allen Robinson, was a third-string afterthought last season. Zach Zwinak was the third-string fullback. Against Temple, the two led the team in rushing and receiving.

O'Brien has taken a patchwork offense and stitched it into something that's attracted the top high school offensive talent in the country.

"I'm looking forward to working with that system," said ESPN's No. 1-rated passer, Christian Hackenberg (Fork Union, Va./Fork Union).

McGloin boasts one more yard passing right now than USC's Matt Barkley. No one is saying McGloin's the better signal-caller, but no one thought he'd be ahead of Barkley at this point either. Penn State's offense still has a long way to go before it can call itself one of the best in the Big Ten, but the fact it somehow seems improved is a feat in itself.

The Lions averaged less than 20 points a game last season with stars like Silas Redd, Justin Brown and Derek Moye. Through four games -- against three teams that played in bowls last season -- Penn State's put up an average of 22 points on the scoreboard and left a lot more points on the field.

Against Temple, Penn State's first eight drives entered opponent territory. Against Virginia, the Lions drove close enough to attempt five field goals.

They've been close to scoring, breaking out of mediocrity, and they're getting closer every game.

So, near the end of McGloin's teleconference call Wednesday afternoon, the quarterback wasn't in the mood to discuss whether this offense was better. He admitted the passing game struggled in the past and labeled it "successful" this season ... but he wasn't answering that question.

"Come on, dude, asking stuff like that," he said with a laugh. "All right, we're done here."

Josh Moyer | email

Penn State/Big Ten reporter

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