Penn State played back and forth game with Northwestern Saturday night but made the halftime adjustments they needed to make to hold off the Wildcats at home. After a wild first half Penn State put the clamps on Dan Persa and the rest of the Northwestern offense for a 34-24 win in Evanston.
Here's a look at how each position on Penn State performed on Saturday.
For the first time all season the quarterback job was a one-man job for Penn State. Matt McGloin got the start and played every offensive play for the Nittany Lions. McGloin completed 17 of 26 pass attempts for 192 yards and two touchdowns, which both came on the first two possessions for Penn State in the first quarter.
"I wasn't really surprised," McGloin said when asked about playing the entire game. "We were moving the ball great as an offense and there was really no need to float two guys in and out and I'm happy with the way we played today."
Still, after the game Joe Paterno was not committed to playing just one quarterback next week week against Illinois. While it seems the quarterback discussion has been put to rest, Paterno's lack of public confidence in McGloin is interesting to note.
"We won the game!" Paterno said when asked about the quarterback situation. "We talked to the kids about alternating from week to week, and both McGloin and Boldin knew the situation going in."
Silas Redd rushed for a career high 164 yards and a touchdown and Stephfon Green got in to the mix with 33 yards and his first touchdown of the season. Just as it did a year ago, Penn State's running game was the most reliable part of the offense in leading Penn State against Northwestern.
Penn State converted 12 first downs using the ground game.
Devon Smith had 110 receiving yards to lead all players in the game and Justin Brown added 32 yards. Both players held on to Penn State's first two touchdowns of the game as well. Not having Derek Moye on the field proved to be a hindrance at times but in his absence Brown and Smith have been more than capable of keeping things moving forward.
Moye's return is still unknown at this point.
Penn State's offensive line only allowed one sack to Northwestern and the running game was close to 200 yards of offense. Northwestern failed to bring consistent pressure in the backfield and that should be considered a nice credit to the offensive line. Things were frantic early on and the second half saw the Penn State offense only manage 88 yards but overall the performance of the offensive line was pretty decent.
Penn State's defensive line recorded 5.5 of Penn State's seven sacks against Northwestern. Jordan Hill continued to emerge as a defensive force by leading the team with two sacks. Devon Still, Jack Crawford, Eric Lattimore and Sean Stanley all got in on the fun as well. It was a good all-around performance by the defensive line, who responded in the second half by clamping down on Northwestern's offense. In the first half the defensive line was struggling to keep up with the frenetic tempo of the game, but in the second half the line helped lead the way as Penn State shutout the Wildcats.
"We did a better job containing, and putting ourselves in better areas," Paterno said after the game. "We were anxious to get to them and we got a lot of our gaps. In the second half, we used a couple more stunts and got accustomed to their quarterbacks. At halftime, we changed a couple things, and the kids did a good job in the second half."
Gerald Hodges was the player of the game, at least as far as defense is concerned. When the defense needed a big play it was Hodges who came through with a 63-yard interception early in the second half to set up a touchdown. Hodges finished the game leading Penn State in tackles with 14 (8 solo), included 1.5 sacks.
Nate Stupar had another solid game, with eight tackles and Glenn Carson added three more. Khairi Fortt picked up an assist on two tackles.
Penn State's secondary didn't allow any real damage in the second half but Northwestern's passing game abused the Nittany Lion secondary. Dan Persa passed for 294 yards and Northwestern had over 300 yards of passing in the game. Penn State's secondary often left big gaps in coverage for the Wildcats to take advantage of.
Penn State was helped out by some key drops in the second half, with Persa's final drive seeing a couple of dropped passes that could have led to a first down and a touchdown when the game was still considered up for grabs. Persa was eventually injured on that drive and that may have been the biggest factor for the game as the defensive line took over with back-ups under center.
The secondary, on this day, was not the strongest asset for the Nittany Lions. But they survived.
We have already touched on it a few times, but enough can not be said about Penn State's ability to master the halftime adjustments against Northwestern. For the second straight year against the Wildcats the Nittany Lions threw together a late first half touchdown and shutout Northwestern in the second half to seal the victory. This year Penn State got to play from ahead.
Credit should be given to Penn State's coaching staff for sticking with one quarterback and not feeling a need to play two players under center to be fair to their players. The team knew that they would have to weather a storm with Northwestern and although they could not slow things down early on the coaching staff stuck with their primary game plan and it resulted in a win.
Penn State picked up a road win in conference play in prime time on a day that saw just about every expert picking against them left and right. The running game saw another career day form Silas Redd, Devon Smith had over 100 receiving yards, and the defense had seven sacks and shutout the opponent in the second half.
The pace slowed down in the second half and Penn State's offense struggled to put Northwestern away in the second half but the defense was ready to slam the door shut and they did just that.
All in all, this was a very good win for Penn State all around, and with Wisconsin losing to Michigan State, the Nittany Lions have now been placed in the driver's seat in the Leaders Division with an undefeated Big Ten record.
Penn State returns home next weekend to host Illinois. Illinois won last year's meeting in Beaver Stadium and because of the way the new division format and scheduling was charted in the Big Ten this season Illinois will look to make it two straight wins in State College.
Last year's result against Illinois still stings many in the Penn State program. It was a game that many consider one of the worst losses of Joe Paterno's career. Illinois got off to a fast start this season before hitting a speed bump against Ohio State last week. Illinois is coming off a loss against Purdue to drop their overall record to 6-2.
Kevin McGuire is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained first-hand or via official interview materials from Penn State University.