Penn State Football: Winners and Losers from the Week 4 Game vs. Northwestern

Colin Tansits@@colin_tansitsContributor IOctober 8, 2012

Penn State Football: Winners and Losers from the Week 4 Game vs. Northwestern

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    With their win Saturday over Northwestern, Bill O’Brien’s team made a statement.

    Trailing by 11 points heading into the fourth quarter, the Nittany Lions stormed back to take the lead on the arm of fifth-year senior Matt McGloin.

    Penn State then put the game away with fullback Michael Zordich rumbling into the end zone with under two minutes left to play, making the score 39-28.

    But, this dramatic win is more than just another conference victory for the Nittany Lions. 

    This win can be one of the key moments in O'Brien's time at Penn State.

    So, let’s see who the winners and losers are from this game.

Winner: Penn State

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    This game goes far beyond just another notch in the win column.

    The Nittany Lions showed their true colors in a gutsy comeback late in the fourth quarter.

    Penn State’s win was somewhat symbolic of what the program has gone through over the past year. The team was faced with diversity and rose to the challenge.

    With this win over a ranked team in Northwestern, the message is clear: Penn State Football is back.

    The Lions still have a steep hill to climb, but their win Saturday could be a defining moment in O’Brien turning around this program.

    Huge win for Nittany Nation.

Loser: Northwestern

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    A win on Saturday for the Wildcats could have been a major step in the right direction for this program.

    It would have been the first time Northwestern has gone 6-0 in 50 years.

    Pat Fitzgerald has slowly been building his program into contention in the Big Ten, and this loss to Penn State isn’t just a bump in the road.

    The Wildcats were within grasp of a win going into the fourth quarter up 11 points.

    This was a tough loss for Northwestern, and it could steer their season that started off so strong down the wrong path.

Loser: Pat Fitzgerald

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    Since 2006, Fitzgerald has held the reigns of the Northwestern football team. He has led the Wildcats to three winning seasons and four bowl appearances.

    This year started off looking like the year that the Wildcats would have a legitimate shot at playing for the Big Ten title.

    Heading into Happy Valley, Fitzgerald’s team was 5-0 and fresh off its first Top 25 ranking since 2008.

    But on Saturday, Fitzgerald was outcoached by O’Brien.

    Given Penn State’s circumstances, including having a very limited kicking game, the Wildcats were picked by most analysts to beat Penn State.

    Fitzgerald came into the game looking like he had his program on track for one of their best starts in 50 years and left Happy Valley with many questions.

    In one of his more questionable choices of the game, Fitzgerald elected not to start Kain Colter at quarterback or even let him throw at all.

    For Fitzgerald, this past Saturday in State College was not his best day coaching.

Loser: Kain Colter

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    With the departure of Dan Persa last year, it looked as though Colter was going to be the next quarterback in Evansville.

    Last season, Colter threw for 673 yards, six touchdowns and only one interception and rushed for a team-high 758 yards.

    This year has been quite the different story for Colter, and Saturday’s game highlighted Colter’s lack of production.

    Colter has only attempted 68 passes this season, and on Saturday, he didn’t throw once. Instead, he played at receiver and in the Wildcat at quarterback.

    But, Colter still had very little production: 24 yards rushing and three catches for 17 yards.

    Although Colter has said that he is “indifferent” about his reduced passing opportunities, his play Saturday showed that Northwestern might not need him as much as it was thought going into the season.

    Although the Wildcats lost on Saturday, quarterback Trevor Siemian did a solid job running the offense, and Colter proved he isn’t much of a threat catching passes.

    After this weekend, Colter’s stock has gone down significantly.

Winner: Zach Zwinak

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    The hard running, 232-pound Zwinak was back at it again this weekend.

    The sophomore rushed for 121 yards on 28 carries and scored a touchdown. He also caught six passes for 52 yards.

    Zwinak continues to prove every week that he is a reliable runner and can catch out of the backfield, and Saturday was no different.

    O’Brien has to be pleased with Zwinak’s powerful running and ability to take care of the football.

    This Saturday was Zwinak’s second consecutive 100-yard game, and in the past three games, he has rushed for 317 yards.

    In the Nittany Lion’s win over Northwestern Saturday, Zwinak continued to prove his worth to this team.

Winner: Linebacker U

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    After Michael Mauti turned in an outstanding performance last weekend, this weekend, it was Gerald Hodges’ turn.

    Hodges recorded 11 tackles, one forced fumble and broke up two passes. Although Hodges might not be the emotional leader on the defense, he looked like an animal on Saturday.

    But, Hodges wasn’t the only one with a good game on defense. Mauti recorded nine tackles, and Glenn Carson and Mike Hull had five a piece.

    So overall, Penn State’s linebackers accounted for 30 of the 60 tackles recorded.

    These guys showed up to play and produced. 

Winner: Matt McGloin

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    Every week, McGloin gets better and better.

    Between his pre-snap signal-calling and his taking care of the ball, McGloin has turned into a solid quarterback for Penn State.

    On Saturday, McGloin threw for 282 yards, two touchdowns and threw zero interceptions.

    Beyond the stats though, McGloin led his team back at the end of the fourth quarter to win the game.

    His less-than-pretty diving flop into the end zone capped off another remarkable performance by the West Scranton native.

    McGloin continues to lead the Big Ten in passing and is still tied with former Penn State running back Silas Redd with five rushing touchdowns.

Winner: Venric Mark

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    Mark has been an explosive player for Fitzgerald’s Wildcats this season.

    After rushing for only 104 yards last year, Mark has burst onto the scene with 615 yards rushing and 374 yards returning, including two punts returned for a touchdown.

    On Saturday, Mark showed how dangerous he really is with a punt returned 75 yards for a touchdown to put Northwestern up 28-17 heading into the fourth quarter.

    Mark rushed for 72 yards and a touchdown against Penn State’s defense that is ranked sixth in the Big Ten.

    The junior showed electrifying moves and speed on Saturday and was a bright spot in a tough loss for Northwestern.