TAMPA — With equal parts precision and picks, tenacity and telegraphing, Penn State quarterback Matt McGloin spent 60 minutes Saturday embodying the Nittany Lions' 7-6 season.
In the postmortem of his team's 37-24 Outback Bowl loss to Florida, the former walk-on didn't so much represent a scapegoat as he did a microcosm.
On the inaugural day of 2011, nothing represented the Lions' glaring 2010 inconsistency more than McGloin's sharp-turned-shaky effort. What began with such promise — 6-of-6, 57 yards, one TD on his first possession — ended with interceptions on his last two drives.
By game's end, McGloin (17-of-41) had thrown for 211 yards but had set a Penn State record — and tied an Outback Bowl mark — with five interceptions.
"It was a little bit like our season was," quarterbacks coach Jay Paterno said. "At times we looked good, at times we looked bad."
For McGloin, there was no middle ground Saturday. When he was on, he was unconscious. Other times, he was unwatchable — at least to the Nittany Lions partisans.
"I guess that's kind of been the story for the past couple of games; we've been up and down all game," said McGloin, who started five of Penn State's last six games after a midseason injury to opening-day starter Rob Bolden.
"We just couldn't finish here. We kind of had them; we just couldn't finish. Hopefully we'll learn how to play a complete game."
Initially, the 6-foot-1 sophomore looked poised to toss a gem.
To cap his flawless first possession, he rolled right and hit Derek Moye in the back of the end zone for an apparent 5-yard TD. When that was ruled no play by an illegal touch penalty, he found Moye in single coverage in the left corner the next play.
But from there, McGloin finished 11-of-35. His five picks were the most he has thrown in one game since the last contest of his sophomore year at West Scranton (Pa.) High.
None was costlier than the one he threw on third and 3 from the UF 25 in the final minute. With his team down by six, McGloin telegraphed a crossing pattern and watched Ahmad Black step in front of the passing lane for an 80-yard interception return TD.
"I think a lot of people made some mistakes (Saturday). It's not just Matt," tailback Evan Royster said. "I don't think it was him that cost us the game. He came out and played hard, and he made some good throws, especially early on.
"I feel like we always play one good half, and then in the other half we just come out and stink it up. I think it's definitely the way the season's gone."