It takes a lot to make a 23-point victory tense.
Linebacker Michael Mauti was carted off in the first quarter of Penn State’s 45-22 victory over Indiana on Saturday. He sustained what appeared to be a serious injury to his left leg.
Neither the coaches nor players really knew how to process their leader’s inglorious departure from the game. So the players kept playing, the coaches kept coaching, and Penn State kept winning.
Coach Bill O’Brien, who is usually good-humored in his press conferences, did not respond well to reporters’ questions about Mauti’s injury after the game.
“No,” O’Brien responded to one reporter’s query as to whether it was reasonable to say Mauti had played his last down the season. “No. No, it’s not. I don’t know the diagnosis, are you going to keep pounding? I don’t know the diagnosis, when I know it, I think I’ve been fair about [releasing] injuries all year.”
Aside from Mauti’s injury, the Nittany Lions had many reasons to feel positive about their victory over Indiana. Quarterback Matt McGloin and wide receiver Allen Robinson both played the best games of their careers statistically. McGloin threw for 395 yards and four touchdowns, while Robinson caught three of those touchdowns on top of a 197-yard day.
Robinson caught his first touchdown pass over the body of an Indiana defensive back in the endzone. His second six-point grab came at midfield, and he tacked about 50 yards after the catch with a nice spin move and burst of speed.
The sophomore wideout said he felt confident in single coverage Saturday, as he broke Penn State’s single-season reception record with his first catch of the afternoon.
“With [wide receivers coach Stan Hixon], going against the press is something we practice a lot against,” Robinson said. “I’m able to come out successfully there most of the time. And me and Matt just being able to connect, that’s the biggest thing.”
McGloin nearly became the first Penn State quarterback to pass for 400 yards in a game. His 395 passing yards is Penn State’s second highest ever in a single game (Zack Mills, 399).
McGloin also passed former Penn State quarterback Daryll Clark for first place on Penn State’s all-time passing touchdown list — McGloin has 45 career touchdowns through the air. In addition, McGloin currently has 3,066 passing yards this season, which passed Clark’s Penn State single-season passing yards record Saturday (3,003).
“I thought I’ve always had the ability [to break records],” McGloin said. “I’ve always had the players around me to do it. So I’ve set some records this year, but a couple of other guys have set records. We have great coaching, great players around us on the field an we’re able to make plays.”
When McGloin wasn’t busy connecting with his receivers for record yardage, he was handing the ball off to running backs Zach Zwinak and Michael Zordich. Zwinak was on pace for 30 carries and 180 rushing yards at halftime. He finished the day with 135 rushing yards. Zordich had 49.
Zwinak’s fumbling problems persisted Saturday. The redshirt sophomore put two on the ground, including one he lost in the third quarter. Zwinak has now lost three fumbles this season.
“That is something he has got to get better at,” O’Brien said. “He’s a great kid and I think he will improve on it. That was a bad fumble that he had today and he knows that was. I’m going to be hard on him because I just think he is a heck of a player, so he’s got to get better there.”
On the defensive side of the ball, the Lions did not live up to their No. 1 first half national ranking. Indiana quarterback Cameron Coffman passed for 210 yards in the first half alone. The Hoosiers put up 14 points — Penn State’s defense had allowed an average of less than four points.
Coffman passed 59 times total for 454 yards. Penn State’s secondary was spread thin Saturday, as safety Malcolm Willis did not play with a knee injury. Backup defensive backs Jake Fagnano, Da’Quan Davis and Ryan Keiser got plenty of playing time.
“I thought those guys were resilient,” O’Brien said. “They are tough. Maybe there is a bad play here and there, but they never let it become a bad day, if that makes sense.”