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Quarterback Matt McGloin had just completed an 18-yard pass for a first down, bringing 104,147 frenzied fans at Beaver Stadium to their feet as the Nittany Lions drove into Northwestern territory and prepared to score again.

While other players on the field jogged toward the line of scrimmage, McGloin took his time.
It was an exciting moment, but he knew he had plenty of time to get ready for the next play. He was not rushed. He gently tugged on his helmet and confidently, patiently walked toward the sideline.
He got the next play, walked to the huddle and then completed a pass for a touchdown.
Penn State was well on its way to securing coach Joe Paterno’s 400th victory thanks to McGloin’s performance that night.
The former walk-on, who had been third on the team’s depth chart just a week before and who had taken the field as a Penn State quarterback for just 63 snaps before that big completion, sure looked like a leader — maybe a success story to define the season.
One week later, McGloin looked almost exactly the opposite.
After dissecting the Ohio State defense in the first half, he made poor decisions and threw two interceptions that were returned for touchdowns in an eventual loss. As the mistakes mounted, the confidence and composure he had displayed just a week before evaporated.
He looked inexperienced and unsure. He was not alone.
While Penn State mostly did what was expected and nothing more this past season (especially with that home loss to Illinois), it did so with a roster comprised primarily of underclassmen.
Many people will focus on two accomplishments as they summarize Penn State’s regular season. Foremost would be Paterno’s landmark 400th victory. Next would be running back Evan Royster’s successful ascent to the top of the program’s all-time rushing list.
Neither means anything when looking toward next season.
For that purpose, the most meaningful number would be 82. Eighty-two of the 117 players on the roster at the end of the regular season were either freshmen or sophomores. That’s why the successes during the season were almost always accompanied by struggles.
Still, Paterno was generally OK with the results and what they might mean for the future. And make no mistake he plans to be a part of that future — for the upcoming bowl game as well as next season.
“You are bound to have those days where things, you know, you can’t make something happen for yourself and anything adverse that happens is probably a little more dramatic than it would be when you get older kids,” Paterno said.
Those players eligible to return next season accounted for 20 of Penn State’s first 25 touchdowns this season — and the overall upside seems strong.
Along with the returning players, Penn State must hope whoever returns remains healthier than those who played this season. A plethora of injuries hampered the team this past season as the Nittany Lions lost playmakers even before the season began, a trend that continued during the season.
The team’s four quarterbacks, all underclassmen, provide perhaps the most interesting subplot when looking ahead.
Sophomore Kevin Newsome, the presumptive starter entering this season who consistently underachieved, can return. Rob Bolden, the freshman who started the season behind center, can return. McGloin can return. And Paul Jones, the freshman from Sto-Rox High School who drew raves last spring and in preseason camp, can return.
It sounds like a slight embarrassment of riches but Paterno knows his team needs consistency, not variety, to eventually find success. He believes the team improved from the start of this past season until the end, and he knows the quarterback must play a big role in any future success.
He expects success to be the eventual outcome, too.
“It’s tough to be playing in this league with quarterbacks that have to carry the load with the way the game is being played. It’s not the way it used to be,” he said. “The defenses are much more sophisticated, the coverages are more sophisticated, the blitzes are all a little bit tougher handle.
“There’s a lot of things that go on now that it takes a little longer to develop into a real steady, consistent football team. And I don’t see any reason why that won’t happen with this club.”

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