September 29, 2012 at 6:00 PM
Michael Mauti wasn't made available to the media this week, so he didn't have a chance to say what his thoughts were in the days leading up to playing Illinois.
Instead, he let his play do the talking.
On Mauti's first play of the game, he delivered a hit on Illinois punt returner Tommy Davis, who fumbled the kick that eventually turned into seven points. The senior linebacker was nowhere close to being done after that.
All told, Mauti had two interceptions — one of which he returned as far as possible without scoring — half a sack and six total tackles in Penn State's 35-7 beat down of Illinois on Saturday.
Mauti was outspoken about Tim Beckman's staff recruiting trip in July and though he didn't go into much detail, Mauti addressed the issue after the win.
"We never forgot about what happened in the summer," Mauti said. "Yeah, to be honest with you, we had that in the back of our minds. It was sweet."
Penn State's defense held Illinois to 74 rushing yards, and the team forced three turnovers. Mauti played a role in all three takeaways.
"Anytime you have things to say, it's very important to go out there and back it up. That's kind of what life is all about, in a way," coach Bill O'Brien said. "He's a guy who doesn't have a lot of problems backing things up. He plays extremely hard, he's an instinctive player and he's a member of a really strong senior class."
The most memorable play of the day came at the end of a wild second quarter. And of course, it involved No. 42 in white.
Illinois had the ball at Penn State's 4-yard line and was threatening to put some points on the scoreboard before the break. On fourth-and-goal with less than 20 seconds left in the half, Illinois quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase tried to find a receiver over the middle of the field, but it was Mauti who jumped in front to intercept the pass at the goal line.
The 6-foot-2, 232-pound linebacker then had 100 yards separating him and six points. He made it 99.
Mauti got some blocks from teammates and eluded a few tackles, but was finally taken down at the 1-yard line. The play was reviewed, but the call was upheld.
With one second left on the clock, O'Brien elected to kick a field goal, a decision he said he later regretted. Sam Ficken had his 18-yard attempt blocked, and Mauti's pick yielded no points for the Nittany Lions.
"That's going to haunt my dreams, especially because we didn't get any points out of it," Mauti said.
However, failing to score would pretty much be the only thing Mauti did wrong during the game as he intercepted Scheelhaase again in the third quarter.
Five games into the season, Mauti either leads the team, or is tied for the lead in tackles (48), interceptions (two) and forced fumbles (two).
"Mauti is one hell of a player," senior cornerback Stephon Morris said. "We expect him to make those kinds of plays. That's normal to us."
Linebacker Michael Mauti discusses how he kept Illinois' summer recruiting tactics in the back of his head while he played today. He also talks about his 99-yard interception return.