September 29, 2012 at 6:15 PM
Guard John Urschel said Illinois’ defensive line was one of the best Penn State will face in the Big Ten.
And for the most part, the Nittany Lions offensive line contained it Saturday in their 35-7 win over Illinois.
Even though McGloin was sacked three times and fumbled once, the numbers don’t do his protection justice. The quarterback wasn’t as light on his feet Saturday as he’s been in Penn State’s other wins. On at least one sack, he rolled right into a block. On a fourth down pass play, the offensive line opened a hole for him, but he ended up throwing an incomplete pass.
McGloin helped the Nittany Lions to five touchdowns, a sign the offensive line was doing something right in the trenches.
“We certainly made some strides improving communication just trying to get things together, working together,” Urschel said. “We’ve just improved over time and I think we’ve seen the fruits of that today.”
Urschel added that the key to the line’s success is communication. He said the group has improved since Penn State’s opening two losses. Especially in Virginia, McGloin was knocked down several times and even injured his elbow.
“Honestly, we’ve got good individual players,” Urschel said. “The key is making sure we come together as an offensive line and that we’re all on the same page every single way.”
The line’s biggest contributions may have come on the run block as it formed gaps for tailbak Zach Zwinak, who gained 101 yards on the ground Saturday. Urschel raved of Zwinak’s downhill running ability. He said he didn’t expect the redshirt sophomore to be so explosive.
Coach Bill O’Brien said the offensive line was one of the most improved units since the spring, and its great chemistry has led to its success.
“They’re physical players and we told them from day one of training camp that we were going to try and be a physical offense, a north and south running team and they’ve done a nice job of that,” O’Brien said.