Asked about that during his own call a little later, Matt McGloin came through loud and clear, saying he doesn't consider himself No. 1.
“I really don't consider myself anything,” he said. “I consider myself just a player, and a part of Penn State's football team.”
He would like to start -- something he has yet to do the first four games of the season -- and more than once felt he earned that opportunity. But he can accept a reserve role.
“If I were to start, I think we'd be able to move the ball a little bit quicker, early on in the games,” he said, pointedly, “but whatever they want me to do, I'll do as a member of this football team.”
Instead, we are left with this clunky QB rotation, which is expected to continue when the Nittany Lions (3-1) open Big Ten play at Indiana Saturday. McGloin has completed 63 percent of his passes, Bolden 46.5. McGloin has thrown three touchdown passes, Bolden one. McGloin has yet to throw an interception, while Bolden has thrown three. McGloin has led seven TD drives, Bolden four.
Asked why he would still consider himself the top dog, Bolden said something about McGloin being on the field after turnovers, suggesting he has only had short fields with which to work -- which is not true, by the way. Bolden also said something about the offense being more run-oriented when he has been in the game. And he mentioned that the offense was hurt by penalties when he was on the field during last week's 34-6 victory over Eastern Michigan.
“When I was in, I feel like we've moved the ball pretty well,” he said.
The numbers would suggest otherwise. The numbers would also suggest that McGloin has outperformed Bolden in every game but the loss to Alabama.
And, McGloin said, “I felt I won the job coming out of (preseason) camp, but the coaches didn't feel that way. They decided to go with two quarterbacks. … Coming out of camp, I felt I was doing everything better -- making better reads, moving the ball better, offense was playing better when I was in there.”
He went so far as to say he felt he won the job in August “hands down.”
“Even sometimes this season I felt as if I should be able to start,” McGloin said, before quickly adding, “Whatever's best for the team, I'm willing to do.”
He bristles when he is referred to as a former walk-on, saying it's “rather annoying.” And he has a logical explanation for his 1-for-10, zero-yard showing in the 27-11 loss to Alabama, a game in which Bolden went 11-for-29 for 144 yards, with a pick.
“You can kind of get away with rotating two guys in and out against Eastern Michigan, Temple and Indiana State,” McGloin said, “but against Alabama, they do so many things defensively, it was hard rotating two guys in and out, because you can't get comfortable. I think both of us struggled with that, that day. I think it would have been better off just to go with one guy, and take it from there.”
Bolden said it is “pretty important” to him to start, that he wants to be the first guy off the bus for home games. McGloin has another view.
“It really doesn't matter to me at all, who gets on and off the bus first,” he said. “It matters who produces on the football field.”
He's producing at a higher rate than Bolden, yet Bolden continues to start. Someone asked McGloin if he believed the coaching staff was trying to appease Bolden, since he requested a transfer following the Outback Bowl loss to Florida in January.
“I can understand why people think that, or I can see where that's coming from,” he said. “Whether Rob was considering leaving or not, it really has no effect on the way I perform, and it should not have an effect on the coaches' decision to see who starts each week. I don't think that it does. If it did, I would definitely be upset.”
McGloin feels he has improved greatly since the bowl game, in which the Gators intercepted him five times, and has tuned out any criticism that has come his way since.
“Coach Jay (Paterno) and Coach Joe (Paterno) are the only ones I listen to,” he said.
Bolden, for his part, believes he too has made strides since last year, when he became the first freshman to start a season opener under Joe Paterno. He went so far as to say he was “clueless” in 2010, but later backed off that word.
In any case, he has benefited from the experience, and benefited further from having spring practice and the like.
“I've definitely gotten better,” he said, “as far as reading defenses and a lot of that stuff.”
He also believes he has shown better judgment as a runner as this season has worn on, but knows he has to get better in other ways. He mentioned in particular how he must improve his touch on certain throws.
McGloin believes he gets rid of the ball quicker than his competition, that he makes quicker reads and that because of that, he doesn't get hit nearly as often in the pocket. And it seems clear that the team responds to him.
As he put it, “For a couple games in there, we really haven't scored a lot in the first quarter … and I feel as if I have to come in there and just try to get the offense moving and try to get us in a better groove and a better mood.”
So the competition continues, with no end in sight.
“Obviously I'd like to be the first guy,” McGloin said, “but it doesn't matter as long as I can contribute to this football team in any way. I'd be happy with that. I've been doing that the last couple weeks, so the coaches, if they want to keep it the same, that's fine. But if they want to start me, I'll definitely be happy with that.”
Bolden, too. You could definitely hear that over the static.