As if Penn State needed something else to deal with, you can now add "locker room altercation" to the list of things the football team would like to forget all about this year.
Last Saturday, starting quarterback Matt McGloin and reserve wide receiver Curtis Drake were involved in a fight—insomuch as one considers a one-punch knockout a fight. The cause seems to be an argument that happened during practice that eventually spilled over into the locker room.
Drake, by all accounts, knocked McGloin unconscious with one punch, and according to McGloin's father, this caused the quarterback to have a seizure and may have caused a concussion. McGloin has since been released from the hospital.
Penn State is being understandably quiet on the issue. A press release followed quickly on the heels of the fight:
"Penn State Police were called to the football locker room this afternoon to investigate a report of a fight between two members of the Nittany Lions football team—Matt McGloin and Curtis Drake—after they finished practice. McGloin was taken to Mount Nittany Medical Center where he was examined, treated and released.
"Campus police and Penn State's Office of Judicial Affairs will investigate the incident and report results as they would for any other student involved in an incident on campus."
This is an unfortunate event regardless of its larger implications for the football team. Not only was McGloin injured, but the injury could very well be trauma to the brain that impacts McGloin a long way down the road.
However, this could also play a large role in the Nittany Lions' bowl game on January 2nd. At the very least, one would expect Curtis Drake to be held out of the game for disciplinary reasons. Throwing punches in the locker room is a quick way to work oneself out of a spot on the depth chart.
The biggest issue could be the health of Matt McGloin going forward. If the punch caused significant damage, it wouldn't be entirely out of the question that McGloin would need to sit out the game. Two weeks is about the minimum when it comes to rest due to a head injury. If the punch was solid enough that McGloin actually had a seizure, it stands to reason that two weeks off will not suffice.
Even if McGloin could return to action in less than two weeks, he would miss out on valuable bowl practice time. He has already been held out of practice pending further tests.
For Penn State, this is the roster loss that hurts the most. Drake is, in a word, expendable. On the year he has five rushes, five receptions and one pass completion, all together totalling 170 yards and one touchdown. Matt McGloin has been the single most important offensive player outside of Silas Redd.
After another offseason of quarterback controversy, McGloin once again settled into the starting role a few weeks into the season.
McGloin hasn't been stellar by any measure. Penn State is 96th in the nation in pass offense with 180 yards per game, and McGloin is the 89th passer in the nation by pass efficiency rating (118.34). However, with McGloin at the helm, Penn State has found a way to pick up yards in the passing game while leaning heavily on the run.
This is the kind of area where Matt McGloin is most comfortable—low risk, low reward. On the season, he has passed for just 1559 yards and eight touchdowns, but only has five interceptions. With Silas Redd averaging just shy of 100 yards per game and a Top-10 defense, McGloin has only been required to not screw up for most of the season.
He has done that, and Penn State has only lost three times—not one of them an upset loss.
Going against a Houston team that showed in the C-USA championship game that it doesn't deal with defensive pressure well, Penn State looks to once again need a quarterback capable of squeaking out a few first downs and a couple long completions to stay in control of the game. Unfortunately, Rob Bolden looks incapable of doing this if forced into action.
Bolden's story is already well known. He entered Penn State as a 4-star recruit and eventually won the starting job as a true freshman. As the 2010 season progressed, it became clear that he had essentially won it by default after an injury sidelined Bolden long enough for McGloin to solidify himself as QB1.
The offseason saw Bolden submit a transfer request that was summarily denied by Joe Paterno. Bolden worked his way back into the good graces of his coaches and teammates and won the starting job again, only to play his way out of it.
On the year, Bolden's pass-efficiency rating makes McGloin's look positively sparkling. Bolden's 80.12 PE rating is a full mediocre quarterback (112.19) below national-leader Robert Griffin III, nearly 40 points lower than McGloin.
If the Nittany Lions are forced to take the field on January 2nd without Matt McGloin, the already lo-fi offense will be rendered almost completely incapable of scoring points. Rob Bolden has repeatedly failed to deliver as a starting quarterback, and Houston's offense is too good for Penn State to win without putting up at least its season average in scoring (15 points).
Curtis Drake's punch may have knocked out more than Matt McGloin last Saturday. It could be the knockout punch to Penn State's chance at a bowl win as well.