PENN STATE linebackers coach Ron Vanderlinden was unsmiling and tight-lipped as he emerged from a 10-minute emergency team meeting late Saturday afternoon at the Lasch Football Building.
"It's good to be a Nittany Lion," Vanderlinden said, as he hurried past reporters who were hoping to get some insight into the latest incident that has turned the school's hallowed football program into an ongoing soap opera.
Already reeling from the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal, the shocking firing of iconic coach Joe Paterno on Nov. 9 and the drawn-out process of selecting a permanent successor to Paterno, Penn State was jolted by a postpractice fistfight between starting quarterback Matt McGloin and wide receiver Curtis Drake, which reportedly began on the field as an argument over who was responsible for a busted pass play and escalated once it reached the locker room. Punches were thrown, McGloin fell and hit his head on the floor and suffered a seizure, his father, Paul, told several media outlets.
McGloin, who was treated at the Mount Nittany Medical Center for not only the seizure but also for a possible concussion, did not attend the meeting. Drake did, but he did not speak to the media afterward, and his cell phone was not in service.
Those players who did comment tried their best to make light of a situation that could severely impact Penn State (9-3) in its Jan. 2 TicketCity Bowl game in Dallas against Houston (12-1).
"Matt's good," linebacker Michael Mauti, who is rehabbing from a season-ending knee injury suffered on Sept. 24, told reporters. "He's all right. He'll be fine."
Well, maybe the redshirt junior from Scranton, who passed for 1,571 yards and eight touchdowns, will be fine eventually. But whether he'll be well enough to play against Houston remains to be seen.
But even if McGloin - who, according to his father, tested negative following a CT scan and MRI - is medically cleared to play in the short time frame until the TicketCity Bowl, he might be held out if an investigation into his fight with Drake leads to one or both being suspended for violations of student conduct.
Interim coach Tom Bradley, during a Nov. 15 press conference, said, "I made it perfectly clear [to the players] that if you step out of line, I'm coming down quick and fast and hard."
University spokeswoman Annemarie Mountz, in a statement, indicated that campus police and Penn State's Office of Student Conduct will investigate the fight between McGloin and Drake and report results "as they would for any other student involved in an incident on campus."
Drake, the redshirt sophomore out of West Catholic High, might be especially susceptible to disciplinary action. He twice before has been cited for his involvement in fights.
Drake, who appeared in only eight games this year because of the lingering effects of a broken left tibia suffered during spring drills, had sufficiently recovered to become an increasingly important factor in the offense toward the end of the season. The former high school quarterback scored the only touchdown in the regular-season-ending, 45-7 loss at Wisconsin, and was splitting time with freshman wideout Bill Belton whenever the Lions went with a change-of-pace Wildcat formation in which one or the other would receive direct snaps from center.
Complicating matters is the uncertain status of second-string quarterback Rob Bolden, who started the first seven games before being replaced by McGloin. The FightOnState.com website, citing anonymous sources, revealed a "minor" legal issue involving Bolden that could lead to him being barred from the TicketCity Bowl.
The absence of McGloin and Bolden could have a potentially disastrous effect on Penn State, which would have to go against the 20th-ranked Cougars with third-stringer Shane McGregor, who has thrown only four passes this season, completing one for 12 yards, in a lead role.
Despite the blowout loss to Wisconsin, Penn State's players had generally received high marks for sticking together and showing strength of character in the wake of the Sandusky scandal and Paterno's dismissal. The fight, if nothing else, indicates at least a crack in that veneer of solidarity.