The Nittany Lions moved to 7-1 (4 – 0 Big Ten) on Saturday with their 34 – 24 road win over a very tenacious Northwestern Wildcat team. Offensively the Nittany Lions were led by Matthew McGloin (17/26 for 192 and 2 TDs), Silas Redd (18 attempts for 164 and 1 TD, his 4th consecutive 100 yard game) and Devon Smith (6 receptions for 110 and 1 TD). As a unit the Nittany Lion defense came away with 7 sacks and 1 interception, but Gerald Hodges led the charge with 14 tackles, 1 sack and an interception (returned 63 yards). This win not only helped Penn State bolster their position at the top of the Big Ten Leaders Division, but it also moved Joe Paterno into a tie with the legendary Eddie Robinson on the All-Time Coaching Victory List. Since Joe Paterno took the reigns as head coach of the Nittany Lions in 1966 there have been 888 head coaching changes in the Football Bowl Subdivision. Coach Paterno has led the Nittany Lions to 2 National Championships, 5 undefeated seasons and 24 Bowl victories. I believe coach Paterno’s longevity and success in this game are a true testament to his work ethic and character, two attributes he tries to instill in every player who has donned the Penn State uniform.
This game got off to a very inauspicious start for the Nittany Lions as Chaz Powell fumbled the ball after returning the opening kickoff 27 yards. The Wildcats were set up with great field position at the PSU 34 and took full advantage of the miscue. The Wildcats only needed 7 plays to hit pay dirt as Dan Persa forced his way into the end zone on 4th and goal from the 1 by calling his own number. Powell made up for his earlier mistake by taking the ensuing kickoff out to the Northwestern 44. Trailing 7 – 0 Penn State was marching down the field on their opening drive before stalling at the Northwestern 6. Faced with a 4th and 1 situation of their own PSU decided to gamble early in the game instead of kicking the chip shot field goal. The decision paid off as Matt McGloin plunged ahead for a 2 yard gain, giving Penn State a first and goal from the Northwestern 4. McGloin hit Justin Brown in the end zone from the 4 yard line on 3rd down putting the Nittany Lions on the board. Penn State’s defense forced the Wildcats to punt on their next possession and Drew Astorino called for a fair catch at the Northwestern 45. The Nittany Lions only needed one play to break the 7 – 7 tie as McGloin connected with the speedy Devon Smith on a 45 yard touchdown pass. Down 14 – 7 the Wildcats put together a 10 play 87 yard drive which culminated with a 12 yard touchdown strike from Persa to Kain Colter. The Nittany Lions answered the call by moving the ball to the Wildcat 20 yard line where Anthony Fera was true on a 37 yard field goal putting Penn State back in the lead 17 – 14. Northwestern would have none of that and proceeded to put together another lengthy touchdown drive. This one totaling 75 yards and was capped off by a 4 yard Colter run. Down 21 – 17 Penn State began their next drive from their own 9, but was able to move the ball down to the Northwestern 16. The drive ended there, but Fera tacked on 3 more points bringing the Nittany Lions to within 1 point of the lead. The Wildcats weren’t finished scoring in what proved to be a very exciting and competitive first half. In fact Jeff Budzien made good on a 25 yard field goal attempt on Northwestern’s next drive. It looked like Penn State was going to head into the locker room trailing 24 – 20 when they took over with just 46 seconds left on the clock. However, the Nittany Lions managed to cover 63 yards in 40 seconds with Stephon Green capping the drive by crossing the goal line from the 1 yard line.
The Wildcat offense seemed too picked up right where they left off in the first half by putting together another long drive, but made a costly mistake by throwing an interception that was returned to their 19. Penn State only needed 1 play to extend their lead to 34 – 24 as Silas Redd scampered 19 yards to pay dirt. The Nittany Lions and Wildcats exchanged punts for the rest of the 3rd quarter which set the stage for a hard fought 4th quarter. Northwestern got the ball at their own 35 after forcing Penn State into a 3 and out on their first drive of the 4th quarter. Persa marched the Wildcats down the field and had them within striking distance of the end zone. However, on 1st and 10 from the Penn State 17 Persa scrambled for a 4 yard gain, but was injured on the play which would prove to be extremely costly as he did not return to the game. The Nittany Lion defense stiffened and sacked Colter on the very next play pushing the Wildcats back to the Penn State 30. On 3rd and 23 Penn State brought pressure again and sacked Colter for an eleven yard loss forcing Northwestern to punt. It was the first time all season that Penn State’s defense didn’t surrender any points on a drive inside the Red Zone and it couldn’t have come at a more crucial time. That defensive stand really seemed to swing all of the momentum into Penn State’s favor and they were able to ride that wave of emotion to the end of the game holding onto a 34 – 24 win.
Penn State now stands all alone at the top of the Big Ten Leaders Division after the Spartans stunned the Badgers Saturday night. The Nittany Lions will play host to the Fighting Illini on Halloween Weekend and hope to build upon the success they have experienced so far this season.
About the Author
Written by Jeremy Hall
I have been an avid sports enthusiast my whole life and currently live in the greater Philadelphia area. So it goes without saying that I catch a lot of flack for being a die hard Redskins and Yankees fan. However, I also cheer for the Nittany Lions which provides me with a little bit of a reprieve.