After sixty minutes of football, the Beaver Stadium scoreboard displayed a 45-22 final in favor of Penn State over Indiana, but on a sunny November afternoon, the numbers did not tell the whole story .
It was a mostly sound victory, a margin that was expected and has become common throughout this series dominated by the Nittany Lions, but after the contest concluded, defensive coordinator Ted Roof had tears in his eyes. Several players were also emotional after stud senior linebacker and team leader Michael Mauti suffered a potentially devastating injury midway through the first quarter when Indiana defensive back D’Angelo Roberts ran into his knee while attempting to make a block.
After being down on the field for a minute, Mauti was helped into a cart. He would be driven away but not before his good friend, senior fullback Michael Zordich, walked over to shake his hand and share a special moment with him. Mauti, who has twice torn his ACL in the past, appeared on the sidelines with crutches in the fourth quarter and received a loud ovation from those in attendance.
A few minutes after Mauti’s injury, the Nittany Lions got on the board first when Allen Robinson hauled in a 26-yard reception from Matt McGloin down the left sideline for a touchdown. The Hoosiers scored the next ten points as the Blue and White began to sputter, but another Robinson touchdown midway through the second quarter put the Nittany Lions back in front. Robinson added his third score of the day before halftime, but the Hoosiers would keep things close with a 79-yard touchdown reception by running back Stephen Houston early in the second half. Mitch Ewald added a field goal a few minutes later following a Zach Zwinak fumble to cut the lead to six, but the Nittany Lions would score the final 17 points of the game, responding quickly with a Zwinak touchdown followed a Zordich score and a Sam Ficken field goal.
The Nittany Lions remained undefeated against the Hoosiers and improved to 7-4, guaranteeing themselves a winning season, but after the game, the injury to the team’s heart and soul was the topic of conversation. Head coach Bill O’Brien offered no update on Mauti’s status but provided some powerful words about the player-coach relationship that has developed over the past 10 months.
“I’ve coached a Hall of Fame quarterback and great players, Mauti is one of the most special players I’ve ever been around,” said O’Brien.
When pressed a few minutes later, O’Brien would not confirm that Mauti had played the final down of his college career, but words and in some cases actions put things into perspective. “I love that kid. He’s meant so much to us and to the university,” said a somewhat distraught Roof. Roof did not stop there. “He’s been a pillar of strength, We’re with him, and he’s with us.”
Zordich helped Mauti hold the roster together in the summer after sanction day. He played inspired football after his friend left the game, and it is tough to imagine what things might be like without the two of them. “He is a huge, huge reason why we’re here right now. He’s a leader,” said Zordich.
Fellow linebacker Gerald Hodges had perhaps the strongest message. “If I had a knee to give him, I definitely would,” said Hodges.
The Hoosiers mostly abandoned the ground game and were held to a season low 24 rushing yards. After the 9:30 mark of the third quarter, they were shutout the rest of the way and only registered four more first downs. One could say Mauti’s absence did not have a huge impact on the actual game today. Perhaps that is true as talented sophomore linebacker Mike Hull filled in admirably with a career-high 11 tackles, but it is almost impossible to imagine this football season without Mauti’s long-hair and fearless attitude flying all over the field making tackles, running down the sideline in search of the end zone after an interception against Illinois, and inspiring both teammates and a community after some of the program’s darkest days before the season started.
“I know next week is Senior Day and my last game, but I really want to win that one for Mauti,” said senior cornerback Stephon Morris.
- Matt McGloin and Allen Robinson broke several school records today including the single-season receptions mark and career passing touchdowns milestone. Check out the details here.
- Zach Zwinak had his third straight game rushing for more than 100 yards.
- Zwinak also had a costly fumble for the second straight contest.
- Indiana quarterback Cameron Coffman threw for a career-high 454 passing yards on a career-high 59 attempts.
- Adrian Amos and Gerald Hodges both recorded their second interception of the season.
- The Nittany Lions were 2 for 2 on 4th down conversions.
- True freshman wide receiver Trevor Williams returned kicks for the first time this season.
- Jake Fagnano started the first game of his career with Malcolm Willis unable to play due to a knee injury.
- Announced attendance was 90,358.
- Sam Ficken has converted his last seven field goals.