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10/06/2012 5:25 PM EDT
Penn State races past No. 24 Northwestern 39-28
PENN ST 39, NORTHWESTERN 28
By GENARO C. ARMAS
AP Sports Writer
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) -- With his team a little stunned after
giving up a 75-yard punt return for a touchdown, Penn State
coach Bill O'Brien walked up and down the sideline giving
players a pep talk.
After everything they've been through over the past year, these
Nittany Lions weren't going to be denied, even after trailing by
11 going into the fourth quarter.
Quarterback Matt McGloin had the go-ahead score on a 5-yard
touchdown run with 2:37 left, one of three fourth-quarter scores
for Penn State, and the Nittany Lions stormed past No. 24
Northwestern 39-28 on Saturday.
"Our staff and myself, we tried to talk to the players and get
them going," O'Brien said. "We felt like we could move the
The Nittany Lions (4-2, 2-0 Big Ten) scored three times in the
final 9:49, starting with McGloin's 6-yard touchdown pass to
Allen Robinson on fourth down as the receiver dragged along the
back line of the end zone. Michael Zordich had a 2-point
conversion run to get Penn State within 28-25 before McGloin's
scramble for a score sent the homecoming weekend crowd into a
"Nobody's down. There's no quit in that locker room," O'Brien
said. "I don't know what's going to happen the rest of the year,
but there will be no quit in that locker room."
The Nittany Lions then stuffed Northwestern's last-gasp drive
after Trevor Siemian's pass for Kain Colter was tipped away on
fourth down. Zordich added a 3-yard touchdown run with 1:30 left
to put a punctuation mark on the wild finish.
Things looked so good for Northwestern (5-1, 1-1) after Venric
Mark's 75-yard punt return for a touchdown with 50 seconds left
in the third quarter demoralized the blue-and-white faithful for
a 28-17 lead.
Mark also ran for a score and finished with 72 yards on 13
The Wildcats couldn't get to 6-0 for the first time in 50 years.
Even worse for Northwestern, the loss continued a disturbing
trend of second-half shortfalls against Penn State. The Wildcats
also had halftime leads two of the previous three years before
falling to the Nittany Lions.
This year, they couldn't hang on to an 11-point lead in the
"It was tough," safety Ibraheim Campbell said about the last 15
minutes. "We've just got to find a way to make a play. Guys were
out there for a while. The offense was out there the same as us.
We've just got to find a way to focus in, make a play and get
off the field."
Some of it couldn't be helped given the way Penn State kept
going for it on fourth down, including Robinson's second
touchdown catch of the game. Penn State was an astounding 5 of 6
on fourth-down conversions on the day.
"I didn't think twice about it," O'Brien said. "You've got to
make the touchdown. You've got to make the play."
Adding to his reputation as a bold play-caller, O'Brien then
decided to go for two. Zordich rumbled up the middle to get the
Nittany Lions within three.
It's certainly a new era for the Penn State offense if nothing
else. Under late head coach Joe Paterno, the Nittany Lions were
known more for the running game and playing for field position.
But the defense, with a few tweaks, remains a hallmark in Happy
After bending in the middle of the game against Northwestern's
high-octane spread, Linebacker U. didn't break in the fourth.
Dual-threat quarterback Kain Colter found his running lanes
filled with swarming defenders, and defensive backs smothered
Linebacker Gerald Hodges led the charge with 11 tackles and a
McGloin struggled at times, too, but bounced back in the clutch.
McGloin directed blockers in front of him as he rolled right but
couldn't find a receiver. So the savvy senior just got into the
front corner of the end zone for the touchdown.
McGloin finished 35 of 51 passing - setting a school record for
completions in a game - for 282 yards and two scores. Zack
Zwinak ran for 121 yards and a score on 28 carries.
A week after dismantling Indiana for 704 yards of total offense,
Northwestern hit a speed bump in Happy Valley. The Wildcats were
outgained 443-247 in total offense and 30-14 in first downs.
Northwestern was also 4 of 14 on third- and fourth-down plays,
while Penn State was 15 of 28.
"That's a recipe for disaster. We're on the field way too long.
We're not sustaining drives," Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald
said. "Our recipe is exactly what they did for success. We got
beat at our own game."
Yet they still were in a good spot in the third quarter after
Colter had a 10-yard scoring run with 3:12 left before Mark's
terrific punt return touchdown about two minutes later for a
Colter, who had nearly 300 yards of total offense last week, was
held to five carriers for 24 yards and three catches for 17
yards. Robinson finished with nine receptions for 85 yards and
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