Penn St moves on after clearing next hurdle: a win
First game for Penn State football’s new era? Check. First road
trip? Out of the way.
Now that first win of the season is in the books, too. Things
may finally be getting back to normal for the Nittany Lions – at
least for what counts as ”normal” these days in Happy Valley.
”It’s another page forward, another week, another game,”
linebacker Michael Mauti said after Penn State’s 34-7 win Saturday
over Navy. ”To get that first win gets the momentum back a little
After two season-opening losses, Penn State (1-2) can move on
with the confidence they can win under new coach Bill O’Brien. The
former New England Patriots offensive coordinator has been the
steady rock for a team that has endured scandal and NCAA
It’s no surprise then that running back Michael Zordich
surprised O’Brien with the game ball in a jubilant locker room
”All right, let’s get another next week,” Zordich said in the
postgame huddle before the players broke it up by yelling
”Family!” after a three-count.
Players didn’t panic after two draining losses to start the
season, though there was a sense of urgency.
No team wants to start 0-3.
Penn State forced four turnovers and capitalized on seven Navy
penalties to finally get that morale-boosting win.
”The one thing that winning does is it cures a lot of things.
Winning also breeds confidence,” O’Brien said.
Now O’Brien can show that all the changes he installed in the
offseason can lead to victory, like the revamped
strength-and-conditioning program or the altered practice routine
to mirror an NFL-style practice.
”There’s a reward for that and we know how to win, and we can
win,” O’Brien said. ”Now we have a new staff that knows how to
win. These players know how to win.”
Mauti (12 tackles) and emerging redshirt freshman defensive end
Deion Barnes (five tackles, sack, forced fumble) led an active
front seven that applied pressure on Navy quarterback Trey Miller,
who was slowed by an injured right ankle. A secondary that had been
maligned the first two weeks with giving up by plays on third downs
played well, led by safety Stephen Obeng-Agyapong, who had a couple
stirring open-field tackles and a forced fumble among his nine
On offense, quarterback Matt McGloin and receiver Allen Robinson
continued to click as one of the Big Ten’s top passing
combinations. Robinson, a sophomore, is stepping up quite nicely as
the featured receiver in O’Brien’s offense and leads the Big Ten in
receptions (24) and receiving yards per game (107.3).
And Zordich (11 carries, 50 yards) and Curtis Dukes (11 carries,
47 yards) did just enough to balance the offense and make Penn
State forget that top two tailbacks Bill Belton (left ankle) and
Derek Day (left shoulder) were sidelined by injuries.
Mainly a fullback, Zordich played more in single-back sets
against Navy – his most extensive playing time running the ball
since coming out of high school in Youngstown, Ohio.
”We need a win to get rolling and it felt good to be able to
have that kind of responsibility,” Zordich said.
He and Mauti were the senior leaders who stepped up days after
the NCAA levied strict sanctions on Penn State for the school’s
handling of the child sex abuse scandal involving retired assistant
coach Jerry Sandusky. Players were given exceptions to leave in
light of the penalties including a four-year bowl ban and steep
Zordich and Mauti helped keep more than 90 percent of the team
together after re-affirming their allegiance to Penn State.
”Like I’ve said from Day 1, there’s nothing any of us can do
about the NCAA. All we can do is play under the rules in which they
say to play under,” O’Brien said. ”So that’s what we’re doing and
these kids have really stuck together. This group of players in the
locker room right now (is) just really high character kids that
have come together.”
Temple visits Beaver Stadium on Sept. 22. In the locker room
huddle after the Navy win, O’Brien told his players to have a good
time celebrating Saturday night before returning Sunday to start
getting ready for the Owls.
Back to the normal routine for Penn State.
”Great job, but that’s just one,” O’Brien said. ”It’s only
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