For the second straight week Penn State played in a game that didn’t fall under the category of a “normal” Penn State game. Between injuries, walk ons, and rebuilding, I guess I should be used to this. Last weeks shoot out was unlike any game Penn State has played in Beaver Stadium in quite some time. This week Penn State found another way to make things interesting coming back from a 21 point hole to beat Northwestern 35-21 in a game that will rank high in the history of Penn State football.
The game itself was really a tail of two halves. Northwestern set the tone early driving down the field scoring a quick touchdown putting the Penn State defense on it’s heels for the rest of the first half. Dan Persa’s talent and Northwestern’s momentum was enough to put up 21 unanswered leaving a full Beaver Stadium stunned wondering if they’d have to wait another week for Joe Paterno’s 400th win. While the game seemed out of reach, fate had a say and Penn State came out of the gates scoring TDs on 5 straight possessions in the second half. A feat that you hardly see with the nations top teams, let alone a team using a former walk-on quarterback. The rest of the game became a celebration of a coach passing a milestone, and a team finding life.
Looking at the game as a complete product, Penn State beat Northwestern in every aspect. That being said Penn State lacked any offense up until the end of the first half when Northwestern had a seemingly insurmountable lead. If Penn State plays a half as flat as they did this weekend, they won’t win many game against tougher teams. In the second half however, Royster and Redd both put together impressive rushing performances behind a gelling offensive line that threw key blocks at key times. Between the two of them they were able to run for over 230 yards and played a key role in Penn State’s long sustained drives. Penn State’s success on offense is directly related to it’s ability to run a balanced offense. The more they can run the ball, the less pressure Matt McGloin has to force the issue.
Offensive player of the game: Silas Redd–11 carries 131 yards and 1 TD.
On the defensive side of the ball Penn State seemed surprised by the skill that Dan Persa had running and throwing the ball. Unlike stopping Denard Robinson, Penn State seemed unsure on how to attack a dual threat like Persa, and before they had an answer he had put up 21 points on Penn State in a blink of an eye. While it was disconcerting to say the least, it seems unlikely that Penn State will be fooled or surprised by anything Ohio State has to show them. They may not be able to stop Pryor and Co, but it won’t be for a lack of preparedness. In the second half of the game Penn State played the best defense they have played all year shutting down Northwestern almost every drive, only adding to the growing momentum in the stadium.
Defensive player of the game:Michael Mauti–Career-high 11 tackles (10 solo) and three tackles for loss
Special Teams: B
Colin Wagner missed a 51 yard field goal, but a lot of that can be attributed to the cold weather, and the fact it’s a 51 yard field goal. At this point in the season I would have expected to have seen a few more big returns, but they’ve yet to really break a big one. Penn State is still strong in this area, but they could take it to the next level. They aren’t making mistakes, but they haven’t made a game changing play yet.