Nittany Lion safety Kim Herring had been waiting for Northwestern.
Earlier in the week, Herring had a dream about his deceased grandfather. Without going into details of the dream, Herring said he realized he never told his grandmother how he truly felt about his grandfather's death.
Knowing his grandmother would be in the stands Saturday, Herring decided to dedicate the game to his grandfather, James Goodwin, also known as "Papa Doc."
"I wanted to crawl into a hole. When I looked back and saw he intercepted the ball, I thought, 'Oh my goodness, he's going to kill me.' "
- Brandon Short, Penn State defensive end
And Herring had what may be the finest game of his career.
"I just played the way I wanted to play," he said. "I never expressed how I felt about my grandfather."
If his play was indicative of his feelings toward his grandfather, he'll have a lot to talking to do with his grandmother. An emotional Herring fired up the Lions in Penn State's 34-9 upending of Northwestern. He intercepted two passes, caused a fumble, broke up a two-point conversion and - even more surprising - showed a bundle of emotion.
The usually subdued Herring could be seen jumping around, waving his hands in the air and cheering with his fellow secondary members - an un-Herringlike manner.
"To see him have a great day like that was great," said cornerback Shino Prater, Herring's roommate. "He's one of the hardest workers on the field."
Herring set the tone with a bruising hit on Wildcat kick returner Hudhaifa Ismaeli in the first quarter. After a Lion touchdown, Herring nailed Ismaeli on the ensuing kickoff, causing a fumble. Anthony Cleary grabbed the loose ball and took it to the Northwestern 19-yard line. Fullback Aaron Harris punched in a score six plays later and put the Lions ahead, 14-0.
That was just the first of Herring's brilliant spots on the night. The first came before the fumble recovery when Herring intercepted a pass thrown by Northwestern quarterback Steve Schnur.
The ball was tipped by a Lion defender, but Herring kept focus, avoided a collision with his own teammate and grabbed the ball. But Lion end Brandon Short had jumped offsides on the play, nullifying the interception.
"I wanted to crawl into a hole," Short said. "When I looked back and saw he intercepted the ball, I thought, 'Oh my goodness, he's going to kill me.' "
Herring picked off his first pass late in the second quarter with the Lions already leading 21-3. On a third-and-10 at the Northwestern 48, Herring stepped in front of Schnur's pass, returning the ball 11 yards to the Wildcat 37.
Already the star of the night, Herring had another opportunity to shine when he intercepted another pass. By this time, he already caused a fumble, picked off a pass and broke up a two-point conversion coming after Northwestern's only touchdown.
On a Wildcat fourth-and-five at the Lion 22, Herring intercepted Schnur's rocket, and ran the ball back 28 yards to the Lion 31. The pick was his second on the night, giving him four on the season.
"He's just a great athlete," Prater said. "I wish I could do what he's doing every day."
Herring's interceptions weren't only a tribute to his grandfather but also the response to Mark Tate's call for nostalgia. Before the game, Tate walked up to Herring and asked him to relive the good ol' days.
"I said, 'Kim, it's about time for you to take a few back like you used to,' " Tate said.Herring was glad to oblige Saturday.