Penn State Football: 7 Best Moments of 2012
Well, suffice it to stay the 2012 Penn State season was like none other.
Obviously there's little need to recap it, but the Jerry Sandusky scandal left this season in a mess, or what was supposed to be a mess. How would the team survive? How many players would leave? Would they be able to win? How would the offense and defense look in a brand new system for the first time in decades?
Under first-year coach Bill O'Brien, the Nittany Lions took those questions, stuffed them in a closet for nobody to see and proved all the doubters wrong. The 2012 season will be remembered for a long time for a lot of different reasons. The players just want it to be about what they did on the field.
So here are the seven greatest moments of the 2012 Penn State season, ranked in order from seventh to first.
Beatdown of Navy
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Penn State was heading towards a tailspin, having dropped winnable games to Ohio and Virginia in the first two weeks.
And in came Navy. While another winnable game on paper, the Nittany Lions had looked a mess for two weeks, so anything was possible.
But the team's best weapon, McGloin came up big in a game that was never close. McGloin connected with Robinson three times, all in the first half, with another TD score to Jesse James to open the contest.
Good thing this was in Beaver Stadium, too. Penn State finally got of the schnide with a 34-7 drubbing and its first win of the season. McGloin saved the season.
Yes, it was an easy opponent. But sometimes you simply need a win, no matter what it takes, to get yourself going in the right direction.
Comeback Against Northwestern
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Penn State trailed 14-10 at the halfway point, and it was quite possible that its three-game winning streak would end.
But the Nittany Lions opened up the scoring in the second half with none other than a McGloin-to-Robinson connection from eight yards out to give Penn State the lead.
Northwestern answered with two TDs of its own in the third quarter, but after that it was all McGloin as the Nittany Lions scored another 22 unanswered points (including a two-point conversion) in the final period to walk away with a 39-28 come-from-behind victory over a ranked opponent.
It would be their only win against a ranked team on the season and extended their win streak to four.
Matt McGloin's 3rd TD to Allen Robinson Against Indiana
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McGloin's third touchdown pass of the game, and the third grab for Robinson, was more than just a great throw-and-catch.
Granted, Robinson made a great adjustment at the goal line to snag the pass thrown where the defender couldn't get to it.
It was also part of a day where McGloin broke or tied several PSU passing records.
- Career TD Passes? Check, with 45 at that point.
- Single-Season Completions and Yards? Check and check with 251 completions for 3,071 yards then.
- Most 200- and 300-yard games? Double check, as he made it 17 and six, respectively.
One week later he tied Daryll Clark's 2009 season for most TD passes in a single season with 24.
McGloin, already considered one of the best (if not the best) signal-caller in program history before the Indiana game, made it all but official in the record books.
And just because he could, he made that touchdown a highlight-reel play.
Blocked Punt vs. Ohio State
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All though the moment wouldn't last, there was one brief moment where Penn State had Ohio State right where it wanted the Buckeyes.
Back in OSU territory, Ben Buchanan had a routine punt on 4th-and-13, until Mike Hull swooped in and blocked the punt, which was recovered by the Nittany Lions in the end zone. They led 7-0 with six minutes remaining in the first half.
Blue and White faithful thought this was it. PSU would walk away with a victory over its hated rival in a season never before seen.
While Penn State couldn't hold on for the victory, there was at least one moment where things looked better than its wildest dreams.
Team Wears No. 42 for Mauti
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With Mauti out for the final game of the roller-coaster season, the Nittany Lions did something that's rarely seen in sports.
They wore the number of a current teammate on their helmets.
Tackle Jordan Hill and running back Michael Zordich felt it only fitting to honor one of the seniors who spearheaded the movement to keep as much of the team as intact as possible. O'Brien could do nothing but agree.
With Mauti on the sidelines with a knee injury that could jeopardize his NFL draft prospects jumping and screaming like a kid at recess, the team played for their lost leader.
Outside linebacker Gerald Hodges, another beast in that corps all season, took it one step further by wearing Mauti's number instead of his own, No. 6. Clearly the gesture inspired the entire team.
Would the team have won the game if it was another typical match with Mauti leading the defense? That is up for debate. But the loss of one of its most devoted seniors clearly played a major role in the team's performance.
Sam Ficken's Redemption
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If there's ever been a scapegoat it has to be Sam Ficken.
The sophomore was the laughing stock of college football for the first two weeks as he made it seem impossible to make even the simplest of field goals. Every extra point was an adventure in and of itself. Fans were calling for him to be benched or worse I'm sure.
But the kid figured it out near the end of the season. After missing a well-documented four kicks in the loss to Virginia, Ficken made 13 of his final 16 attempts, including the his final 10.
So who would have guessed that the season finale would ride on the leg of the least trusted kicker in possibly the entire game?
While the season would end unceremoniously without a bowl game, Ficken made sure it would be a memorable finale, squeezing the 37-yarder through the uprights one final time and giving Penn State a 24-21 lead in overtime.
A few plays later and Wisconsin's Kyle French would miss a 44-yard attempt, making Ficken the most unlikely of heroes.
July 25, 2012
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I don't think Penn State has the season it does without this day.
Without this public statement by Michael Zordich and Mauti in July, is there any possible way the Nittany Lions walk out at 8-4 at season's end? Is there any way McGloin has the kind of season he has? Is there any way O'Brien leads a team in a new direction after all the pain it had suffered before the season with the success that had?
No. And that's a resounding no. Penn State football needed its leaders to come out immediately after the NCAA levied its sanctions and show that they were committed to the program, and most importantly, the school.
Yeah, Silas Redd bolted for USC. But that was the only significant loss, even though Zordich and company made it seem far from a loss. Without all those players coming out and calling for everyone to stay, the team very easily could have fractured.
The win over Wisconsin wouldn't have mattered, and that's if Penn State even would have won.