Why Penn State Nittany Lions Football Is Alive and Well

Sanjay KirpalaniNational Recruiting AnalystOctober 6, 2012

The play of QB Matt McGloin has sparked Penn State and helped the Nittany Lions win its last four games.
The play of QB Matt McGloin has sparked Penn State and helped the Nittany Lions win its last four games.Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

After an offseason that made headlines for all of the wrong reasons, and an 0-2 start to the 2012 season, Penn State has reeled off four consecutive wins after defeating No. 24 Northwestern in a 39-28 comeback victory. 

Despite the scholarship reductions and transfers related to the aftermath of the Jerry Sandusky scandal, Bill O’Brien and the Nittany Lions have responded and proven that the football program is capable of surviving the turmoil that has threatened to destroy it.

Trailing 28-17 heading into the fourth quarter against the Wildcats, quarterback Matt McGloin sparked a 22-point outburst by throwing and running for the first two of what would be three scores in the final and decisive period. 

Such resiliency has been a theme among the tight-knit group of players that decided to stick it out in Happy Valley. 

McGloin—who has had an up-and-down career—has thrived in O’Brien’s new system. 

The senior has completed nearly 62 percent of his passes this season for 1,499 yards and 12 touchdown passes compared to just two interceptions. 

His help has come from a three-headed monster at running back led by sophomore Zach Zwinak, who was the workhorse (28 carries for 121 yards and a touchdown) against the Wildcats. 

The defense has stood tough throughout the season, and even though they gave up a season-high 28 points to the Wildcats, they only surrendered 247 yards of total offense and more importantly—Northwestern was kept off the scoreboard in the fourth quarter.

Linebacker Michael Mauti—who ranked fourth in the Big Ten in tackles with 48 leading into today’s game—has been the emotional leader on that side of the ball. 

With senior leaders like McGloin and Mauti, the Lions have been able to block out the noise surrounding the team and focus on the things they can control on the field. 

Meanwhile, in O’Brien, Penn State has hired a young and energetic coach that has been successful at every level prior to his arrival in Happy Valley.

With a manageable Big Ten slate in the second half of the season, the Nittany Lions realistically have a shot to equal last season’s nine-win total—which would be an amazing feat. 

Despite facing nearly insurmountable odds, O’Brien and his team have managed to survive a rough start and lead the program to a remarkable turnaround halfway into his debut season.