Paterno’s young players shine at Penn State

The past, present and future of Penn State football blended

together perfectly at Beaver Stadium to create one memorable

night.

Lost in the hype over Joe Paterno’s 400th career victory were

standout performances by younger Nittany Lions on both sides of the

ball that could bode well for the rest of 2010 – and beyond.

”Well, if I had my choice it would have been a little easier,”

Paterno said about the rally from a three-touchdown deficit in the

first half to beat Northwestern, 35-21 on Saturday night. ”I just

think some of these kids now know what it takes to get it done and

to me, that was the important thing.”

Winners of three straight, Penn State (6-3, 3-2 Big Ten) has

turned around its season a month after a demoralizing two-game

slide left many fans wondering if they would ever win again.

Lethargy has been replaced by energy – and the dramatic

half-to-half mood swing vs. the Wildcats was the perfect example of

Penn State’s season to date.

Redshirt sophomore Matt McGloin replaced freshman starter Rob

Bolden after two series and finished with 225 yards and four

touchdowns, including a 7-yarder to Brett Brackett with three

seconds left in the first that provided a team-wide emotional

lift.

Bolden started for the first time since getting knocked out two

weeks ago with a concussion, and Paterno said afterward he was

healthy.

Suddenly, quarterback is a question mark again at Penn State –

though it’s a good dilemma. Between McGloin, the former walk-on,

and the touted freshman Bolden, the Nittany Lions have two young

signal-callers who have won games, though McGloin has mainly guided

the offense on its win streak.

Quarterbacks coach Jay Paterno, Joe’s son, said it was too early

to name the starter against Ohio State next week. Coaches stressed

Bolden wasn’t pulled because of ineffective play or injury, but to

see what McGloin could do.

”We’re back in the race right now. Anything can happen,” said

McGloin, referring to the Nittany Lions being one loss behind the

quartet of one-loss teams atop the Big Ten. They visit Columbus to

play the Buckeyes (8-1, 4-1) on Saturday.

”Hopefully the momentum we’ve built up these past couple weeks

will carry over to practice this week and we’ll be ready for the

challenge,” McGloin said.

His penchant for throwing the deep ball is part of the reason

the running game has taken off, along with much-improved play from

the offensive line.

Senior Evan Royster – the school’s career rushing leader – was

vintage in shifting through the trenches to get to holes and

fighting for extra yards in his 25-carry, 134-yard outing. But it

was freshman Silas Redd’s performance – 11 carries for 131 yards –

that should have fans at ease about the rushing attack’s

future.

Boasting nifty spin moves and on-a-dime cutting ability, Redd

also scored from four yards to put Penn State up for good in the

third quarter. He sidestepped a Wildcat on that play who had fallen

just in front of Redd’s feet before dashing into the end zone

untouched.

”I thought he had great burst and great vision,” Northwestern

coach Pat Fitzgerald said. ”I’m not surprised that he had success

from the standpoint when he got in the open field. But I was

surprised that he had so much success against us.”

After dangerous dual-threat quarterback Dan Persa accounted for

all three Northwestern touchdowns in the first half, Penn State’s

defense adjusted to the speed and tricky offense led by inspired

play by third-year sophomore linebacker Michael Mauti.

Thought to be Happy Valley’s next star linebacker in the recent

tradition of Paul Posluszny, Sean Lee and Dan Connor, Mauti played

the second half as if ready to assume the role. He finished with 11

tackles, including three for losses and one sack, and did an

effective job shadowing Persa.

”We are definitely going to try to go to Columbus with the

attitude we had in the second half,” said defensive tackle Devon

Still, who had four tackles and a sack. ”We are going to try to

shock the world and beat Ohio State.”

Just like in 2001, when the Nittany Lions rebounded from an

18-point deficit in the third quarter to beat the Buckeyes and

secure another milestone for Paterno, win No. 324 to pass Alabama’s

Paul ”Bear” Bryant for most victories by an FBS coach.

It was the biggest come-from-behind win for Penn State at home

in the 45-year Paterno era … until Saturday’s stirring victory

over Northwestern.