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Penn State Football: Ranking the Top 10 Individual Performances of PSU's First Half

Barry LeonardAnalyst IIIOctober 9, 2016

Penn State Football: Ranking the Top 10 Individual Performances of PSU's First Half

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    The first half of Penn State's 2012 season is in the books. The Lions started the year 0-2, but head into the bye week riding a four-game winning streak and boasting a record of 4-2 (2-0).

    Nobody really knew what to expect from the 2012 Penn State Nittany Lions. First-year head coach Bill O'Brien has had to face more adversity than any other coach this year. O'Brien walked into a situation where a legendary coach was fired amidst a horrible scandal and situation.

    The new coach has had to now deal with all of the negativity surrounding his school and program.

    As if that wasn't enough, O'Brien saw the NCAA hand down harsh punishment this summer that opened the door for several key players to leave the team.

    In spite of everything, Penn State has to be pleased with where it's at. The team looks strong and still has a chance at finishing on top of the Big Ten Leaders Division.

    Heading into the bye week, it's time to look back at the highlights from the first six games of the 2012 season. 

    The following slides recall and rank the 10 best individual Penn State performances from the first part of the season.

No. 10: LB Michael Mauti vs. Navy

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    Game Stats: 12 total tackles and a sack

    Senior linebacker Michael Mauti made plays all over the field against the Midshipmen. He set the tone for the defense and led the team with his 12 tackles.

    Two tackles went for a loss, including a sack that resulted in a 21-yard loss.

    Mauti stepped up on a day that saw head coach Bill O'Brien get his first career win as a head coach. The Nittany Lions dominated Navy, especially on defense. The Midshipmen were held to just seven points in the game.

    Mauti was named Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week for his play in the win over Navy.

No. 9 : LB Mike Hull vs. Navy

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    Game Stats: Five tackles, 74-yard fumble return TD

    Gerald Hodges and Michael Mauti are the Penn State linebackers who garner all the attention. However, sophomore Mike Hull is quietly having a solid season.

    Hull, who has 24 tackles and two sacks on the season, had a big game against Navy in Week 3. The linebacker helped the defense shut down the Midshipmen and preserve the first win of the year for the Nittany Lions.

    The Penn State defense forced four turnovers in the game, including a fourth-quarter fumble that was picked up by Hull and returned 74 yards for a touchdown, putting the Lions up 34-0.

    When the senior stars Mauti and Hodges leave at the end of the season, fans can rest assured that the linebacking corps will be in good hands with Mike Hull.

No. 8: LB Gerald Hodges vs. Northwestern

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    Game Stats: 11 tackles and a forced fumble

    Senior linebacker Gerald Hodges had been waiting for a chance to showcase why he will likely be an early-round draft pick in the upcoming NFL draft. Hodges, who is second on the team with 50 tackles, had a great game in Week 6 against Northwestern.

    The Wildcats entered the game as one of the top rushing teams in the nation and were coming off of a Week 5 game in which they put up 704 total yards.

    Against Hodges and the Penn State defense, Northwestern was held to just 247 total yards, including only 112 on the ground.

    Hodges led the Lions on defense and helped to stop the Wildcats in the second half. The Lions were down 11 points going into the fourth quarter before scoring 22 unanswered points en route to the 39-28 victory.

    The 11 tackles tied a season high for the senior and earned him Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week honors.

No. 7: RB Zach Zwinak vs. Northwestern

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    Game Stats: 121 yards rushing, one touchdown and 52 yards receiving

    No one has been a bigger surprise for the Nittany Lions this year than sophomore running back Zach Zwinak. Zwinak, who was buried at the bottom of the depth chart to start the year, has found himself having to carry the load on the ground in the last three weeks.

    Against the Wildcats, Zwinak put up career-high numbers on the ground and also helped quarterback Matt McGloin by showing solid hands out of the backfield.

    Zwinak helped establish the run game, taking pressure off of McGloin and the passing attack.

No. 6: LB Michael Mauti vs. Illinois

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    Game Stats: Six tackles and two interceptions

    Upset at the fact that Illinois coach Tim Beckman appeared on campus this summer to recruit Penn State players after the NCAA sanctions were handed down, Michael Mauti took out his frustration when the Lions visited Illinois in Week 5.

    Mauti flew around the field, making six tackles and coming up with two big interceptions. He totaled 105 return yards on his two interceptions, including a 99-yard return at the end of the first half that saw him get tackled at the goal line.

    The Illini were looking to score just before halftime when Mauti picked off the Nathan Scheelhaase pass at the goal line and rumbled 99 yards down the field.

    Mauti set the tone for the Penn State defense, as it held Illinois to just seven points.

    The performance in Week 5 earned Mauti Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week honors. He was also named the Walter Camp National Defensive Player of the Week.

No. 5: QB Matt McGloin vs. Northwestern

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    Game Stats: 282 yards passing, two touchdowns and a rushing touchdown

    Matt McGloin did not look sharp in the first half against the Wildcats, but his second-half play helped lead the Lions to an important comeback victory.

    McGloin threw threw both of his touchdown passes in the second half. A third-quarter strike to wide receiver Allen Robinson put Penn State up 17-14 at that point. Later, the senior quarterback hit his favorite target again on a six-yard touchdown pass that brought the Lions to within three after a successful two-point conversion.

    After being down 11 in the fourth quarter, the crowd at Beaver Stadium watched McGloin bring his team back and eventually take the lead. Fans erupted when McGloin took a third-down snap and ran five yards to the end zone, putting the Lions up 32-28.

    Perhaps Mcgloin's most important play in the game came on a 4th-and-2 from the Northwestern 19-yard line. McGloin scrambled right and eventually hit Brandon Moseby-Felder for 13 yards. That play allowed for McGloin to score the go-ahead touchdown two plays later.

    McGloin continues to prove that he has what it takes to lead a big-time college football program to success.

No. 4: WR Allen Robinson vs. Northwestern

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    Game Stats: 85 receiving yards and two touchdowns

    After being held without a touchdown in Week 5, Robinson came up big for the Nittany Lions in Week 6 against Northwestern.

    Though he was shut down in the first half, Robinson scored two second-half touchdowns to help the Nittany Lions erase an 11-point deficit and defeat the Wildcats.

    Robinson has been Matt McGloin's favorite target this year. The sophomore receiver is having a breakout season and is currently the Big Ten Conference's leading receiver.

    Robinson has caught 41 passes for 524 yards and seven touchdowns.

    Several players have benefited this year from the new Bill O'Brien NFL passing attack. Robinson is enjoying great success as the featured wide receiver in a now-potent offense.

No. 3: RB Zach Zwinak vs. Illinois

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    Game Stats: 100 yards rushing and two touchdowns

    In Week 5 against Illinois, Zach Zwinak proved that he deserves to get the bulk of the carries in the Penn State backfield. Zwinak, who saw an expanded role in Week 4 against Temple and gained 94 yards, built upon that experience in the game against Illinois.

    Zwinak scored the first touchdowns of his college career in the game and led the Penn State ground attack with 19 carries for 100 yards. Zwinak finished the game with an impressive 5.3 yards per carry.

    If the Lions are going to continue to have success in the Big Ten, the running game is going to have to continue to improve. Zwinak has showed that he is certainly capable of leading the Penn State ground attack.

No. 2: WR Allen Robinson vs. Navy

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    Game Stats: 136 yards receiving and three touchdowns

    Allen Robinson had his best game of the season in Week 3 against Navy. Robinson sparked a Penn State offense that put up 34 points on the Midshipmen.

    Robinson, who previously had games of 97 yards and 89 yards in Weeks 1 and 2, had a stellar game against the Midshipmen, catching five balls for a whopping 136 yards and three touchdowns.

    Robinson finished the game with an amazing yards-per-catch average of 27.2

    The performance thrust Robinson into the national spotlight as one of the best wide receivers in the nation. Robinson is now on the Biletnikoff Award Watch List. The Biletnikoff Award is given to the nation's top wide receiver.

    Robinson has been a great surprise for Penn State and figures to continue to be a focal point of the offense moving forward.

No. 1: QB Matt McGloin vs. Navy

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    Game Stats: 231 passing yards and four touchdowns

    Senior Matt McGloin has been given control of the Penn State offense and now throws the ball all over the field. McGloin, who is one of the most improved players in the country, is in the middle of a fantastic season.

    His best game of 2012 to date was in Week 3.

    Though McGloin didn't rack up a lot of yards (231), he threw for a career-high four touchdowns and avoided any turnovers. McGloin looked comfortable in the pocket and was in full control of Bill O'Brien's new offense.

    On the season, McGloin has thrown for 1,499 yards and 12 touchdowns with just two interceptions.

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