When Penn State had a 3-3 record, the Nittany Lions were well aware their bowl hopes were hanging in the balance.
After a few team meetings where the seniors told the rest of the team they didn’t want their last game in blue and white to be against Michigan State, the Lions responded.
After reeling off their third-straight win Saturday, and despite most of the excitement focused on Joe Paterno’s 400th victory, becoming bowl eligible was more than a side note for Penn State.
“That was definitely one of our main objectives to get to a bowl game,” senior co-captain Ollie Ogbu said. “Especially me and [Brett] Brackett, we don’t want to end our senior year you know, having your last game in November. We want to have that January game or that late December game and I think we did a great job today of doing that.”
However, wide receiver Derek Moye and running back Evan Royster were quick to point out becoming bowl eligible is a start, but it’s simply not good enough for the team.
One of the Lions’ goals was to win six-straight games after the loss to Illinois and with a trip to Ohio State looming, Penn State is aiming to better its bowl game and reel off their fourth-straight win.
“It’s always cool to go to a bowl game,” right tackle Chima Okoli said. “But I know for a fact we have to keep and understand like this is over, this is done. It’s imperative we start preparing for Ohio State because they’re a really good football team.”
Day to remember:
Offense: Quarterback Matt McGloin
The former walk-on started the game as the backup, but Paterno was looking for a spark and McGloin delivered. Completing 18-of-29 passes for 225 yards and four touchdowns, McGloin helped the Lions score 35 consecutive points.
Though it’s still undetermined whether or not he’ll be the starter, years from now McGloin will remember he quarterbacked the team that got Paterno win No. 400.
Defense: Linebacker Mike Mauti
The redshirt sophomore stepped up by recording 11 tackles, 10 of which were solo. With the defense continuing to look for a playmaker, Mauti proved he can be the guy, and the defense built off his emotion and pitched a second-half shutout.
Mauti recorded a sack on Northwestern’s final drive, which sent the crowd and team into a frenzy as the game was put away.
Day to forget:
Offense: Quarterback Rob Bolden
The freshman quarterback returned to the field for the first time since suffering a concussion against Minnesota, but his performance was forgettable. Bolden started the game but struggled to move the offense and was replaced by McGloin at the end of the first quarter.
Bolden completed 3-of-4 passes for 43 yards and took two big hits, one of which resulted in a fumble. Bolden’s inability to nail down the starting job leaves the competition open for McGloin.
Defense: Defensive end Jack Crawford
Crawford is estimated to be about 80-percent healthy and saw the field for the first time since suffering a foot injury in early October. With Crawford playing in a rotation with the rest of the defensive ends, he recorded one tackle and is slowly regaining his health.
The entire defense looked rough in the first half but with a strong second half, it’s tough to pinpoint one person who had a forgettable day.
Did you notice?
Miami Dolphins first-round draft pick, Jared Odrick, was on the sidelines ... Zombie Nation mistakenly played in the second quarter on 2nd-and-7 after an incomplete pass from McGloin to Moye ... The student section never completely filled.
Redshirt freshman Nate Cadogan, the younger brother of former Penn State tackle Gerald Cadogan, got in the endzone in the third quarter.
The 6-foot-5-inch, 297-pound tackle was converted to tight end during the bye week and caught a 3-yard touchdown pass from McGloin during the Lions’ opening drive of the second half.
“Every day for two weeks at practice I would be out there at practice catching some passes and running some routes,” Cadogan said. “I think I have the hands but I need to prove it to the rest of the team.”
Matt McGloin on the importance of the game ball. “I gave it to Jay [Paterno] and I think he’s trying to keep it actually. I was thinking to myself how much can I get for this ball if I just took it and went in the locker room with it?”
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