Penn State’s defense made the adjustments they needed to make as Penn State pulled away from Northwestern Saturday night. Penn State shut out the Wildcats in the second half after taking a 27-24 lead in to halftime. The win was Joe Paterno’s 408th career win, moving him into a tie with Eddie Robinson for second most all-time.
Penn State finally used one quarterback on offense, starting and finishing the game with Matt McGloin. McGloin had some moments of bewilderment, but he ended the evening by going 17-for-26 for 192 yards and a pair of touchdowns, each coming on the first two offensive possessions of the game. McGloin completed a short four-yard pass to Justin Brown to get Penn State on the scoreboard on their first official possession. The score tied the game after Northwestern struck first after Chaz Powell fumbled away the game’s opening kickoff.
Penn State and Northwestern traded blows in the first half, with the Wildcats becoming the first team all season to score 14 points in a single quarter against Penn State (in the first quarter). Northwestern took a 24-20 lead with under a minute to play in the first half, but Penn State took 40 seconds to travel 63 yards on seven plays to take a halftime lead. The drive was culminated when fifth-year senior Stephfon Green scored a one-yard touchdown with six seconds remaining in the half. It was the first score for Green this season.
Northwestern took the ball to start the second half, but Dan Persa had a pass tipped and the football landed in the arms of linebacker Gerald Hodges, who had a nice return to set up the Penn State offense in good field position early in the second half. Just as Northwestern took advantage of a turnover to start the first half, Penn State took advantage of their early opportunity.
At 7-1, is Penn State a legitimate Big Ten contender?
It took one play for Silas Redd to dash 19 yards for a touchdown in what would be the final score of the game. Redd rushed for 164 yards, a new career high, in 18 attempts and averaged 9.1 yards per rush. Green chipped in 33 yards as well.
Persa left the game in the second half with a turf toe injury and did not return. His injury could not have come at a worst time for the Wildcats.
With Northwestern moving down field and looking as though they would pick up some points and cut in to Penn State’s 34-24 lead, Persa was tripped up from behind by Jack Crawford. His replacement, Kain Colter, was sacked on consecutive plays in relief to push Northwestern out of scoring position. Penn State’s defensive line stepped it up with Persa out of the game and forced a pair of 3-and-outs in the second half to seal the deal in a hard-fought win.
What it means
Penn State improves to 7-1 and is 4-0 in Big Ten play. They continue to control their own destiny in the Big Ten’s Leaders Division.
Matt McGloin played the entire game for Penn State for the first time all season. It would appear that the quarterback issue has been put to rest. McGloin said that he knew last week that he would start this week.
Joe Paterno is now tied for second all-time in coaching victories, with 408. Grambling’s Eddie Robinson also shares the mark. Division 3 St. John’s head coach John Gagliardi has 481 wins and counting.
Northwestern became the third team to score 14 points against Penn State’s defense, but is the first team to score 14 points in a single quarter.
Devon Smith (Penn State) and Jeremy Ebert (Northwestern) had 100 receiving yards. Smith edged Ebert’s receiving total, 110-109.
Player of the Game
Gerald Hodges, Penn State linebacker
14 tackles, one sack, one interception
With the game going back and forth, it was up to one defensive player to come up with a big play, and Hodges did just that by intercepting a tipped pass from Dan Persa and setting up a quick touchdown run by Silas Redd. The sack by Hodges came late in the game and was Penn State’s seventh of the night.
Silas Redd, Penn State running back
Redd rushed for a career high 164 yards and a touchdown. Redd has enjoyed games against Northwestern the past two years, running for 295 yards and two touchdowns in his two games against the Wildcats. Northwestern visits Penn State in 2012, which will be his last game against Northwestern unless the two two happen to meet in a Big Ten championship game by 2013.
Dan Persa, Northwestern quarterback
Before leaving the game with an injury, Persa was 26-of-34 for 294 yards and a touchdown. His lone interception came on a tipped pass, and Persa was one of the few reasons the Wildcats were able to hang in this game.
Penn State returns home next week to take on Illinois. The Illini started the season 6-0 but have dropped two straight games in Big Ten Leaders Division play after losing to Purdue this weekend. Illinois lost to Ohio State last weekend. Penn State will look for revenge after Illinois roughed up the Nittany Lions to ruin homecoming in 2010.
Northwestern travels to Bloomington next week to take on Indiana.