Penn State is set to host the Wisconsin Badgers for senior day 2012. Here’s what the VBR staff expects to see.
Saturday’s matchup is going to be, to sum it up in a word, emotional. It’s Senior Day, the last home game of the season, and the last game of the year. It’s been a tumultuous year for Penn State football but these last few months have, in all honestly, flown by and this will be the last time we see the graduating senior class suit up in blue and white. However, we won’t see Michael Mauti out on the field this weekend, as he’s out on a knee injury. Despite this, expect the Nittany Lions to come out playing with passion and for the defense to step up in Mauti’s absence. The crowd will definitely play a big factor and although many students will be making their way back from Thanksgiving break, I expect a good showing from the student section. Wisconsin doesn’t have as much to play for in this game – as they will be playing in the Big Ten Championship game on December 1st – and while they may put up a good fight, I don’t see them overcoming the Nittany Lions in this game.
The key for PSU is going to be getting out to a big lead. Depth issues, especially at DT and LB will hurt them again in the 2nd half as Ball, James White and the Badgers O-line eventually wear them down. I expect PSU to do just that, propelled by a raucous senior day crowd, and then to hold on late as a Wisconsin comeback falls just short in the end.
It’s bitter-sweet to write this prediction. It represents the last game not only of the 2012 season, but also for 31 seniors and their families that will be recognized before Saturday’s tilt with Wisconsin. Penn State has been installed as a 2.5 point favorite, and my hunch is it has more to do with Wisconsin’s lack of a need of a win more than it has to do with Penn State’s ability to win the game.
It’s truly hard to put a value on the worth of this year’s senior class. They did so many things that will be etched into the lore of Penn State football, and perhaps even Penn State University’s storied tradition. Each member of the class contributed something to making the Nittany Lions program as good as it could possibly be. This class though, was led by a very special group of players, Matt McGloin, Michael Zordich, Gerald Hodges, and Michael Mauti.
Matt McGloin set personal and team records for passing that have not been seen since the likes of Kerry Collins in 1994. What McGloin was NOT in 2010 and 2011,he WAS in 2012. Matt has been able to find a level of consistency that has led him to being one of the Big Ten’s best passers. On Saturday, don’t look for him to have one of his better games, rather, just like he has played all year, look for McGloin to have a gritty, gutty performance. One wrought with 200 yards passing, 1 touchdown, and 1 INT.
All year long Michael Zordich has played second fiddle in the backfield behind players like Bill Belton and Zach Zwinak. However, no running back has been more consistent than Michael. While he is typically not the team’s leading rusher, he is the guy that gets the tough yards. It’s that determination and drive that led him and teammate Michael Mauti to stand before players and media on a late July morning to announce that they were staying put at Penn State and to rally the entire Penn State community. No doubt, Michael Zordich’s leadership skills both on and off the field will be missed! On Saturday, look for Zordich to gain about 30 yards rushing with a chance at a TD. The stats won’t look great, but there is so much more that Zordich brings to the table then flashy numbers.
Gerald Hodges represents the silent assassin on defense. While most people think of Michael Mauti on defense, it is Gerald Hodges that leads the team in tackles (102). Hodges epitomizes the Teddy Roosevelt phrase, “walk softly and carry a big stick.” He is not the most out-spoken member of the Nittany Lions, but he lets his talking be done on the field. Hodges should fare well at the next level. Saturday, look for Hodges to once again be pivotal in stopping Wisconsin’s Montee Ball. I won’t be shocked if Gerald records double-digits in tackles.
Finally, the heart and soul of the football team has to be Michael Mauti. By now, Penn State fans know that his knee was severely injured last week against Indiana and will not play this week. While his on-field talent will be missed, his heart, dedication, and Penn State pride have been on full display this whole week. He epitomizes what being a Nittany Lion is all about. More importantly, it was he and Michael Zordich that single-handedly kept this team together. His presence will undoubtedly be missed!
And so, to these players and all of the other players that will be recognized this Saturday, I say thank you. Thanks for the memories and the Penn State pride that you have shown not only Nittany Nation, but also the entire country! I wish all of you the best in your future endeavors.
able to do this year. This group of young men showed all of those who
thought PSU would be irrelevant for 10 years that Penn State is not
going anywhere. This team scratched, clawed, and fought for Penn
State, even though a title was unobtainable. They demonstrated
loyalty, success, and honor, all hallmarks of the Penn State football
program, even though the challenges they faced were like nothing any
other team has been forced to face.
The 2012 Nittany Lions will forever be remembered. For fighting for
something bigger than themselves, bigger than a trophy, and bigger
than some January trip to the south. They stood up and fought for our
University. They fought for every student, alumni, and Penn State
football fan across the country. In the process, they gave new
meaning to the phrase “We Are.”