Mistakes cost Penn State shot at Big Ten title

Penn State quarterback Matt McGloin was furious – not when he

spiked the ball, but after being penalized for doing so.

With the Nittany Lions already trailing 14-7 early in the second

quarter of Saturday’s game at Wisconsin, tight end Andrew Szczerba

was penalized for a false start. McGloin spiked the ball, then was

shocked when officials called a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct

penalty on him to back the Nittany Lions up a total of 20

yards.

McGloin thought the penalty was absurd, saying he spiked the

ball not out of frustration but because he didn’t want defenders to

think the play was still going and get a free shot on him.

”I’ve been doing that for two years now,” McGloin said. ”It’s

a ridiculous call to make in a situation like that. I’m not going

to stand there with the ball in case the defender doesn’t hear (the

whistle) and ends up clocking me. I just stepped back and spiked

the ball. It was an incomplete pass. Like I said, I’ve been doing

that for two years and somehow that’s an unsportsmanlike

call.”

The play was typical of Penn State’s performance in Saturday’s

45-7 blowout loss to Wisconsin – a mistake piled on top of another

mistake.

”You don’t want to get caught and have a guy come lay you

out,” Penn State assistant coach Jay Paterno said. ”So you spike

the ball just like you would in a two-minute situation and the guy

said he spiked it because he was angry. It’s a judgment call and

that’s how they judged it. It was a big one but we’ve got to

overcome those things.”

Turnovers, penalties and missed tackles cost the Nittany Lions

any hope of hanging with Wisconsin, and any chance of salvaging a

season dwarfed by scandal with a spot in the Big Ten title game for

a shot at the Rose Bowl.

Penn State’s program has been in turmoil for weeks in the wake

of child sexual abuse charges against former defensive coordinator

Jerry Sandusky, which led to the firing of longtime coach Joe

Paterno.

Players didn’t think the team hit some sort of emotional wall in

Saturday’s game.

”I don’t think so,” McGloin said. ”It was just one of those

days mistakes killed us. Unfortunately it was against a team like

Wisconsin where if you make mistakes like that you’re going to

lose.”

But Jay Paterno acknowledged that the Nittany Lions couldn’t

seem to sustain their energy.

”I thought the energy was good early on but I’m sure it’s been

pretty rough for a couple of weeks for these guys,” Paterno

said.

The Nittany Lions came into the game knowing they didn’t want to

get caught up in a shootout with a high-octane Badgers offense led

by running back Montee Ball and quarterback Russell Wilson. Penn

State would have to rely on its defense, which came into Saturday’s

game giving up a Big Ten-best 13 points per game.

But after stopping the Badgers on their first possession of the

game, then scoring on a 44-yard touchdown pass from McGloin to

Curtis Drake, things quickly fell apart for Penn State.

Penn State gave up a 10-play, 76-yard drive that allowed

Wisconsin to tie the game on a 21-yard pass from Wilson to Jared

Abbrederis. The Nittany Lions got good field position when a

kickoff went out of bounds, but McGloin immediately threw an

interception to safety Shelton Johnson at midfield.

”I just didn’t get the ball up high enough,” McGloin said.

”The kid jumped up as high as he could to get it. It was a

mistake. It wasn’t a bad ball. It was just a bad read.”

The Badgers marched for a 1-yard touchdown by Ball to take the

lead.

”That’s probably the best feeling on defense, getting a

turnover and to let the offense score – that’s the one thing that

you love the most,” Wisconsin linebacker Mike Taylor said. ”It

just puts points on the board and helps you win.”

Later in the second quarter, a horse-collar tackle by Penn State

linebacker Gerald Hodges earned a 15-yard penalty and helped

Wisconsin march for another touchdown by Ball to take a 21-7

lead.

Then Penn State’s Michael Zordich fumbled the ensuing kickoff,

allowing Wisconsin to put together one more scoring drive to take a

28-7 lead into halftime.

”You learn a lot about yourself in that locker room, (what) you

have to say to those players after the game,” Penn State interim

coach Tom Bradley said. ”Obviously we didn’t play a very good

football game (Saturday). One of the key ingredients was the

turnovers. We can’t turn the ball over against that team, we had

four of them today. Crucial times, crucial situations. I told them

to keep their heads high, keep working at it and we’ll get back to

work.”