Notebook: McGloin seeking improvement

Matt McGloin used some strange adjectives to describe his offense's performance against Illinois. He skipped over "dynamic" and "high-powered" -- and went straight to "not enough."

Just one week ago, the fifth-year signal-caller said his goal entailed scoring 35 points. Sure enough, Penn State upended Illinois 35-7. But, this week, McGloin sounded as if it was Illinois who had scored the five touchdowns.

"We can do better than that," said McGloin, who ran for two touchdowns and passed for another.

"Anytime we get inside the 25 or 30, we got to put points on the board. We got the ability and plays to do it, so we got to stop making dumb mistakes near the goal line."

McGloin wasn't wrong. Despite its biggest scoring output of the season, the Nittany Lions were just 4-of-7 on their red-zone chances. For the season, Penn State is scoring just 62 percent of the time it enters the red zone -- the 11th-worst rate in the country.

On the flip side, Northwestern's defense has toughened up in that area and has allowed just seven touchdowns in 18 trips.

"I'd like to see myself do better," McGloin added, "and be more consistent at times."

No words necessary: Michael Mauti isn't the kind of player who stands on a soapbox and delivers win-one-for-the-Gipper speeches. He actually doesn't say much of anything -- but his teammates have no trouble understanding him.

"His play speaks for itself," safety Malcolm Willis said. "His [play] said, 'Guys, I'm going to put the team on my back and make a bunch of plays. And I expect the same from you guys.' "

That's a lot of body language derived from just zipping across the field. But few, if any, linebackers have done that better than Mauti. He boasts a team-leading 48 tackles, two interceptions, two forced fumbles and four deflections.

Seriously?: Bill O'Brien has surprised players, reporters and fans with his honesty this season -- but no one was quite prepared for what he had to say Thursday on his weekly radio show.

When asked what his favorite Creamery ice cream was, the coach admitted he hadn't yet stopped by the famous shop, a Penn State institution. The crowd audibly gasped, and the coach apologized.

It was a light-hearted moment, but O'Brien was tight-lipped when asked what he'd want his ice cream flavor called.

"Yeah ... I'm not going down that road," he said.

Staying put: Defensive end Deion Barnes, a redshirt freshman, said no teams have yet reached out to him about transferring. And that's the way he prefers it.

"I actually haven't been bothered by coaches, and I'm glad I haven't," he said. "I wouldn't listen to it because I'm focused on Penn State and winning right now."

Barnes will likely be one of the top players teams target in the offseason. He has 3.5 sacks so far this season and two forced fumbles.

Disagreement: With kickoffs five yards closer to midfield, more touchbacks than ever have been recorded this season -- and Alex Kenney isn't really happy about it.

"It's very frustrating," the returner said. "I mean, we can't really do anything about the rule change, but it is unfortunate it's taken a big-play opportunity off of each game."

The speedy wideout has returned just one kickoff for 20 yards so far this season.

Biggest surprise: Offensive guard John Urschel was asked who stands out most on the offensive line, and the redshirt junior opted to name a non-starter: Ty Howle.

"This is a guy who's a great, great football player," Urschel said. "Unfortunately, he had to struggle with an injury this offseason, which set him back. And then another injury, which set him back until a couple weeks ago. He's given us some depth."

Howle practiced as the backup center this week and can also play guard.