Down the road, when we're further away from the scandal and sanctions that rocked Penn State, we'll look back on the 2012 season and remember the contributions of quarterback Matt McGloin and linebacker Michael Mauti. With their spectacular play and great leadership, the seniors have led Penn State both on and off the field. In the process, both have done their part to help restore Penn State's proud tradition.
After waiting his turn, McGloin finally got his chance to start this year. The fifth-year senior hasn't just picked up Bill O'Brien's offensive system, he's thrived in it. McGloin leads the Big Ten in passing yards per game (243.4), and he ranks second in the conference with 10 touchdown passes and 20.2 completions per game. McGloin has four rushing touchdowns on the year, and has been intercepted just twice. O'Brien says that McGloin's intelligence and work ethic have helped him learn the new offensive system, one that the head coach says puts a lot of responsibility on the quarterback.
But it's his leadership that counts the most. When you watch McGloin play, it's as if Penn State has another coach on the field. When he comes to the sidelines, the first one there to greet him is O'Brien. Call it mutual respect or mutual dedication. McGloin and O'Brien are just what this program needs.
On the other side of the ball, Mauti is the leader of a defense that has gotten better each week. After Penn State's first two games, there were serious questions about the Nittany Lions' ability to stop opposing teams, especially on third down. Last week, the defense turned in a dominating effort at Illinois, with Mauti front and center.
The linebacker intercepted two passes, made six tackles, and recorded a half sack. He's all over the field when he's out there, even playing on special teams, where his hustle down the field last week led to an Illinois fumble on a punt early in the game. He leads the Nittany Lions in tackles with 48, and his play has not gone unnoticed. For the second time in three weeks, he was named the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week. He also won the Walter Camp Football Foundation National Defensive Player of the Week award for his efforts against the Illini.
Most importantly, like McGloin, Mauti is a leader. When opposing coaches showed up in Happy Valley last summer to recruit Penn State's players, Mauti wasn't happy. You can tell he's using that as motivation now. Mauti never stopped believing in his school, and he's clearly relishing the opportunity to help restore its image. When O'Brien talked this week about his guys playing "like their hair is on fire," you know he's thinking of Mauti. He brings it on every play.
There are some great players in college football, and if you look at the top contenders for the Heisman Trophy, you won't see either McGloin or Mauti on the list. That's not what this is about. It's about two guys who are as valuable to their team as anyone in the sport.
There should be an award for that.
Charles Costello is a lifelong fan of the Penn State Nittany Lions.
Philadelphia Inquirer - McGloin more relaxed and focused this season
Philadelphia Inquirer - Mauti draws praise for his play and leadership
Yahoo! Sports - Mauti leads Penn State
Penn State Official Site - Statistics
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