Morelli OnLion: Shot in the Arm

We learned two things during last week’s Penn State game with Eastern Michigan.

1. Eastern Michigan is terrible. 2. Matt McGloin should be the Nittany Lions’ starting quarterback.

With Rob Bolden in the game, the Nittany Lions struggled to put points on the board. However, once McGloin entered the lineup, the 3-1 Lions went right down the field and put the ball in the end zone.

In today’s edition of Morelli OnLion, we’ll take a closer look at Saturday’s rout of the Eagles and look ahead to this week’s Big Ten opener at Bloomington.

Let’s start with the on going saga that is the Penn State quarterback situation.

Shot in the Arm

If there was any doubt heading into the Big Ten opener as to who Penn State’s starting quarterback should be, that doubt was erased on Saturday against the Eastern Michigan Eagles. With the offense stuck in neutral and the Lions nursing a 3-0 lead, former walk-on Matt McGloin entered the contest — and the Lions immediately scored.

In fact, McGloin wowed the crowd with a performance that earned him Co-Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week honors. He shared the honors with Michigan standout Denard Robinson. On a sun-splashed afternoon at Beaver Stadium, McGloin finished the afternoon completing 14 of 17 for 220 yards and three touchdowns. It was a performance that should earn McGloin the starting nod when the Lions visit Indiana at noon on Saturday.

But McGloin probably won’t start — again.

No, the starting duties will probably fall once again to Bolden, who was an underwhelming 7 of 13 for 115 yards with a TD and an interception. It should be noted that his lone touchdown pass was a 71-yard catch-and-run to Devon Smith. In fact, until McGloin entered the game, the Lions were holding a scant 3-0 lead over a team that had no business being on the field with them.

One has to wonder exactly what it will take for coach Joe Paterno to pull the trigger and make McGloin his full-time starter. If last week’s winning effort wasn’t enough to sway the iconic coach, chances are that nothing will.

Two-Minute Drill: Eastern Michigan

Game Ball to … Matt McGloin.

What can you say about the kid? Four games into the 2011 season and he is finally re-gaining his 2010 form. In fact, Saturday’s performance was reminiscent of some of his performances last year, when he rescued the Lions. Although they were never in any real danger against the Eagles, his stellar performance should have converted all of the non-believers. He was throwing like a gunslinger and was in control at all times. He breathes life into a sometimes punchless offense.

What Was He Thinking? Eastern Michigan coach Ron English.

We’re not exactly sure what prompted the coach to trot out Kody Fulkerson for a pair of chip-shot field goals late in the game, but it appeared to be a rather desperate attempt to avoid a shutout. We’ve never understood the need to get points on the board via the field goal when you’re down by several touchdowns. Sure the game is out of reach, but go for the TD.

Numerology … 468

Penn State racked up 468 yards in total offense on Saturday, definitely one of their best performances of the season. With McGloin running the offense, they looked sharp. That bodes well as the Lions head into conference play.

The Countdown

5. Michael Mauti — The star linebacker went down with a torn ACL during Saturday’s win. It’s an unfortunate injury when you consider just how well Mauti was playing. However, according to linebacker Nate Stupar, Mauti is handling the injury extremely well. “A lot of people can be down and cold-hearted … (Mauti) hasn’t been that way at all,” Stupar said. Mauti has been uplifting, energetic and “very passionate about the ‘Coach Mauti thing.’ “It’s good to see that, really good to see that.”

State College High School product Nate Stupar was forced into action on Saturday.

4. D’Anton Lynn — The cornerback went down on a scary injury during Saturday’s win. He lay motionless on the field before being taken off the field on a cart. The scene quieted the crowd. Fortunately, Lynn — who said he lost feeling in his arms on the hit — is expected to be back in the lineup soon.

3. Silas Redd (and others) — The Penn State ground game continues to struggle. Redd had just 51 yards on 12 carries during the game. Many expected Redd to breakout during the contest against overmatched EMU, but that never materialized. The Penn State ground game must improve as the Lions head into Big Ten play.

2. Anthony Fera — Apparently out of JoePa’s doghouse, Fera handled most punting and kicking duties on Saturday. He kicked a 29-yard field goal during the first quarter, spotting Penn State a 3-0 lead.

1. Nate Stupar — The State College Area High School product stepped in for the injured Mauti and racked up seven tackles, including three for loss. With Mauti out for the rest of the year, defensive coordinator Tom Bradley will rely heavily on Stupar. Hopefully, Saturday’s performance was a sign of things to come.

Gameday: Indiana

This will be a good tune-up for the Lions as they prepare for Iowa, a team that always gives them fits. IU has struggled so far this season, losing most recently to North Texas, 24-21. IU is one of the easiest road venues to play at in the Big Ten and we expect Penn State to have no problem going to 4-1.

Gantdaily.com prediction: Penn State 27, Indiana 14.

Chris Morelli is an award-winning writer/editor who lives in Centre County and covers Penn State athletics for gantdaily.com. He’s also a regular on “Sports Central,” which airs on ESPN Radio in Altoona and State College. E-mail him at morellionlion@gmail.com. Also, be sure to check out Morelli OnLion on Facebook!

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