COLUMBUS, Ohio - If his last three games provided an appetizer to Penn State fans starved for exciting offense, Matt McGloin was cooking up a scrumptious main dish in the first half Saturday.
In a stadium where the Nittany Lions had not thrown a single touchdown pass since 1963 - a period of 11 games - McGloin threw two in helping Penn State build a stunning 14-3 halftime lead over No. 8 Ohio State.
The former walk-on had boosted his staggering completion percentage to nearly 60, his touchdown-interception ratio to 9-1, and he had supplanted Rob Bolden, the presumed starter for the next three years.
In less than a month, he became a household name in the Nittany Nation and ESPN's national college football community, but en route to one of the most amazing stories in Penn State history, Matt McGloin's chariot turned into a pumpkin.
And the rough and tough Buckeyes bodyslammed McGloin and the Nittany Lions back to earth with a 35-0 second-half domination that sent PSU limping home with a 38-14 loss and a 6-4 record.
As great as McGloin was early Saturday, hitting on seven straight passes at one point including touchdowns to Justin Brown and Derek Moye, Ohio State forced him into a 2-for-12 second half with two back-breaking interceptions that were returned for touchdowns.
The Associated Press
Penn State receiver Derek Moye catches a 6-yard TD pass from Matt McGloin.
"We moved the ball in the first half, and we got the crowd out of it," McGloin said afterward. "We went into halftime, and they made some adjustments."
It wasn't all McGloin's fault. After his first interception put the Buckeyes up 17-14, McGloin threw a beautiful deep pass to Devin Smith at the OSU 30, and he dropped it.
"Smith's got to make that catch," quarterbacks coach Jay Paterno, ever the QB defender, said.
And after the Lions' defense actually created a turnover on Malcolm Willis' interception of Terrelle Pryor at the Penn State 2, Moye dropped a third-down pass that hit him right in the chest.
"It was a slant, and honestly the ball kind of got up on me a lot quicker than I expected," Moye said.
While all this was happening, the Penn State defense was being overpowered by the Buckeyes' smash-mouth running game, and the Nits were unable to get their own ground attack, which worked well in the first half, back in gear.
Having laid three-point eggs in big games at Alabama and Iowa earlier this season made this one hurt worse - especially after the Lions played an almost perfect first half, save their inability to convert a red-zone opportunity with less than two minutes left and a 21-3 lead at stake.
"That sure would have helped," senior guard Stefen Wisniewski said. "You never like to have the ball at the 20 and come away with no points, but we're still going into halftime up 11."
"The fact that we were up 14-3 at the half kind of makes it sting," Moye said. "We had the game, and we gave it away."
Wisniewski felt the same way - saying "we blew it" - but, really, they didn't.
Penn State didn't blow this game as much as Ohio State regrouped at halftime, adjusted its focus and asserted itself as the better team.
It showed how quickly perceptions and fates can change. McGloin played the first half like he would be the starter through the 2012 season. He finished the game on the bench as Bolden mopped up (he was 0-for-3).
Both Paternos - Joe and Jay - were asked afterward if McGloin would remain the starter and if the position rotation would be changing again. Neither bit.
McGloin, from this view, has done enough to start the final two regular-season games, beginning Saturday at FedEx Field against an Indiana team that just allowed Wisconsin 83 points.
"We'll see how we respond," McGloin said. "Hopefully, we'll come out with the same confidence we've had the last couple of weeks. This was a great experience that can make us better."
Matt McGloin's glass slipper is cracked. Let's see if he can fix it.
Rudel can be reached at 946-7527 or firstname.lastname@example.org.