“Feeling the rush” has a different meaning for Matt McGloin than most people.
Instead of a sudden burst of energy and excitement, the rush the senior quarterback feels is opposing lineman and linebackers bearing down on him in the pocket, while he keeps his eyes on potential targets.
“The worst thing a quarterback can do is look at the rush, you have to keep your eyes down the field, feel the rush,” McGloin said. “And [quarterbacks coach Charlie Fisher] just drilled us and drilled us in mechanics and drills and stepping up in the pocket.”
McGloin has been crafty with his feet this season. The Nittany Lions’ offensive line has allowed just eight sacks in seven games this season (seven on McGloin), and he has avoided multiple other takedowns by shifting around the pocket.
The fifth-year senior said coach Bill O’Brien and Fisher have done many drills that include stepping up in the pocket and increasing awareness. He added he’s developed a “silent alarm” when he drops back, meaning he should know when to get the ball out of his hand.
On a play in the first quarter of Penn State’s recent blowout win against Iowa, McGloin dropped back and as the pocket started to collapse, he stepped up and rolled to his right to avoid pressure. He then fired a bullet to freshman tight end Jesse James for a 31-yard touchdown — the Lions’ first of the contest.
“Once you have the ball for a few seconds, you start to think to yourself ‘All right, the show’s over, I got to get rid of it, I got to do something here’” McGloin said. “You can definitely feel the pocket closing in, and at that point it’s either throw it away, find somebody or get rid of it, that’s basically it.”
McGloin leads the Big Ten with 255.4 passing yards per game and is second in the conference with 14 scores through the air. And though his 24 net rushing yards don’t jump off the stat sheet, McGloin’s five rushing touchdowns lead the team.
O’Brien even joked McGloin was a dual-threat quarterback. But then the former New England Patriots offensive coordinator spoke about how Tom Brady had good footwork in the pocket, and said he was trying to make those tangibles translate to McGloin.
“What we’ve tried to do with Matt is teach him about pocket awareness, and Matt’s done a good job of that,” O’Brien said. “He’s climbed the pocket when he’s supposed to. He’s moved ever so slightly when he’s supposed to.”
Coaches weren’t the only ones cracking a few jokes about McGloin’s running ability, as teammates got in on the action, too. Senior
Michael Zordich said players sometimes mess around with McGloin, saying he’s not athletic. But the fullback noted McGloin’s pocket presence has aided the offense.
“He’s very good at getting away from the pocket, evading pressure,” Zordich said. “It’s very impressive. He always finds a way to extend the play, he gets out of sacks, spins out and does what he can. It surprises you. But at the same time, once you’ve seen it a couple times, you learn to realize he knows what he’s doing.”