STATE COLLEGE -- Matt McGloin called it a dive. A few of his teammates weren't so kind in their description.
A hop. A jump. A fall on his face.
"Terrible," cornerback Stephon Morris said. "A two (out of 10)."
All that mattered was what the officials called it. A touchdown.
The senior quarterback scrambled to his right and went airborne into the end zone for the winning score, completing yet another second-half dismantling of Northwestern.
On another record-setting Saturday, McGloin helped rally the Nittany Lions from 11 down in the fourth quarter, storming past the No. 24 Wildcats 39-28 at Beaver Stadium.
McGloin broke the all-time school record for completions in a game with 35. He threw for 282 yards and figured on three second-half touchdowns to stun the Wildcats in the fourth quarter.
The third and final score came on a broken play, a 5-yard touchdown run -- his fifth of the season -- on third down with just 2:37 left to play.
"I don't understand," a smirking McGloin said when told of his teammates' critiques, "how a touchdown becomes bad now. That's what I told ‘em! It doesn't matter what it looks like. It still counts."
Did it ever.
Still trailing 28-25 and the kicking game as shaky as ever, McGloin lined up in the shotgun with four receivers on third-and-goal from the 5.
Pressure from the defensive end flushed him out to the right. He threw a slight pump fake before crossing the 10, found open grass in front of him and launched off of his right foot at the 2, just clearing the pylon for the score.
"Well," McGloin said, failing to get out the first word of his description without a laugh, "I was unsure of what to do there … if I had to dive or not. So I just decided to dive. But my knee brace unfortunately got caught in the ground. So I just looked like a complete fool.
"But I stuck the landing."
He added a flourish, too. The senior, who in the past was known to compare his style to Brett Favre -- and not always favorably -- has apparently evolved to emulate another Packers quarterback.
When McGloin landed from his, whatever it was, he proceeded to make like Aaron Rodgers after a big run and flash the championship belt around his waist.
"I was thinking about doing it for a few days now, if I got another rushing touchdown. So before I did it, I was kind of looking to see where the refs were (so I wouldn't get flagged).
"I kind of did a leg kick. He just kind of does it (normal). I do a bit of a little leg kick after mine."
After leading the Lions to 22 fourth-quarter points, McGloin could probably have gotten away with most any kind of celebration in Happy Valley. Especially now that the Lions (4-2, 2-0 Big Ten) head into their off week on a four-game winning streak, delivering Bill O'Brien his first win over a ranked team.
It didn't look likely after Northwestern's Venric Mark ran a punt back 75 yards for a touchdown with just 50 seconds left in the third quarter. Penn State trailed 28-17 and the stadium was silent.
The offense answered with an 18-play, 82-yard drive, with McGloin connecting with Allen Robinson for their second touchdown of the half. A 2-point conversion pulled the Lions within 28-25, and the Wildcats (5-1, 1-1) never recovered.
"Matt's done a really nice job of coming in at halftime and staying relaxed and calm," O'Brien said. "He understands it's a 60-minute game. He's grown up a lot.
"When you're a senior and you're playing your last few games here at Penn State, that means a lot to him. I can't say enough about Matt McGloin. He's got the job done."
As did the Penn State defense.
Just a week after Northwestern set a school record with 704 yards of total offense, the Lions held the Wildcats to just 247. Northwestern finished with season lows in total yards, first downs (14) and rushing yards (112).
And the Lions beat them at their own game. Penn State tied a school record by running 99 offensive plays to just 61 for Northwestern. Typically, it's the Wildcats playing an up-tempo game to pack in as many snaps as possible.
They couldn't get enough on Saturday. After McGloin's go-ahead score, the defense got a stop on an ensuing fourth down and Michael Zordich iced the game with a 3-yard touchdown run.
"You guys saw what we did out there today," McGloin said. "We're going to fight for 60 minutes. We're not going to give up on one another. We're going to keep doing our jobs."
PSU -- Sam Ficken 21-yard field goal, 3:41. Drive: 13 plays, 33 yards, 5:56. Analysis: The Nittany Lions open their second series with excellent field position after punter Alex Butterworth pins Northwestern at its 1 and the defense forces a three-and-out. But the yards don't come easily for the offense, which is forced into a pair of fourth-down situations because of the team's kicking woes. McGloin completes a fourth-and-4 pass to Allen Robinson on the first and Zach Zwinak converts a fourth-and-inches up the middle on the second. On third-and-goal, tight end Kyle Carter comes open in the front of the end zone, but Matt McGloin's pass clangs off of his hands, bringing on the field goal team. It's the third successful kick of the season in nine tries for Ficken. PENN STATE 3, NORTHWESTERN 0.
PSU -- Zach Zwinak 1-yard run (Ficken kick), 9:34. Drive: 8 plays, 40 yards, 2:16. Analysis: Penn State's defensive dominance is finally paid off, forcing a fourth straight three-and-out to open the game, delivering the ball to the offense at the Northwestern 40. Again it takes a fourth-down conversion to make it happen, as Penn State improves to 3-for-3 on the game, getting another successful QB sneak by McGloin to keep the drive alive. Zwinak is turning into the Lions' most reliable runner and gets his number called in the red zone to drive the ball to the 1. From there, he launches not-so-gracefully through the air, but he meets little resistance before landing in the end zone for his third score of the season. PSU 10, NU 0.
NU -- Venric Mark 2-yard run (Jeff Budzien kick), 6:23. Drive: 3 plays, 17 yards, 1:05. Analysis: A critical special teams error gets the Wildcats into the game. The defense finally surrenders a first down at the 9:19 mark of the second quarter as Northwestern moves into Lions territory for the first time. But a stop near midfield brings on the punt team. Return man Jesse Della Valle, sure-handed to start the season, signals fair catch before having the ball bounce off his fingertips. Northwestern scoops it up immediately at the Lions 17, and is prevented from scoring only because of a rule that prevents a team advancing a muffed punt. That only delays the inevitable as Kain Colter gets his first big gain of the day down to the Penn State 2 on an option keeper. Two plays later, it's Mark going off right tackle and into the end zone for the score. It's the first touchdown allowed by Penn State in the first half all season. PSU 10, NU 7.
NU -- Tony Jones 11-yard pass from Trevor Siemian (Budzien kick), 0:30. Drive: 8 plays, 66 yards, 1:50. Analysis: Siemian delivers the game's best throw, finding Tony Jones near two defenders deep in the end zone to give the Wildcats a surprising halftime lead. The scoring drive was kept alive by a controversial pass interference call against Lions corner Stephon Morris. The senior went up and tipped the ball away from his man, but a flag came almost immediately afterward. A play later, when Morris was shaken up, Lions coach Bill O'Brien comes across the field to check on him -- and also to tear into the back judge who made the call, yelling in his face. Penn State trails at halftime for the first time this season. NU 14, PSU 10.
PSU -- Allen Robinson 8-yard pass from Matt McGloin (Ficken kick), 7:17. Drive: 12 plays, 80 yards, 5:23. Analysis: After throwing it 28 times in the first half, Penn State's offense gets back in balance, using the run to set up the pass and take the lead back. Zwinak picks up 37 yards on six carries to fuel a critical scoring drive. And this time, it's Penn State benefitting from a pass interference call, as Robinson draws the flag in the end zone. He then uses his 6-foot-3 to shield off a defender at the goal line for the touchdown catch, his sixth of the season. PSU 17, NU 14.
NU -- Kain Colter 10-yard run (Budzien kick), 3:12. Drive: 11 plays, 71 yards, 4:05. Analysis: Northwestern punches right back by getting its ground game on track as Mark starts chewing up yards himself. Quickly reaching the red zone, Colter executes a perfect zone-read fake, breaking away with the ball at the last second to scamper 10 yards off left tackle for the go-ahead score. It's the first time Northwestern has scored in the second half against Penn State since 2005. It's the first time the Wildcats scored a second-half touchdown against the Lions since 2004. NU 21, PSU 17.
NU -- Mark 75-yard punt return (Budzien kick), 0:50. Analysis: As bad as Penn State's special teams had been all season, the Lions could still point to their coverage units as a bright spot. Not anymore. Butterworth blasts a 54-yard punt only to give too much room to Mark, who expertly weaves through traffic before hitting the left sideline and leaving the rest of the Lions in his dust. It's the first punt return for a score allowed by Penn State since Florida State's Willie Reid took one the distance in the Orange Bowl at the end of the 2005 season. NU 28, PSU 17.
PSU -- Robinson 6-yard pass from McGloin (Michael Zordich run), 9:49. Drive: 18 plays, 82 yards, 6:01. Analysis: The Lions don't lay down, slowly marching downfield against a Northwestern defense content to not give up the big play. Once again, it comes down to a fourth-down play as Bill O'Brien goes for it on fourth-and-4 from the Wildcats' 6-yard line. McGloin has plenty of time before delivering a strike to Robinson in the back of the end zone. Zordich then takes the handoff on a draw out of the shotgun for the conversion. NU 28, PSU 25.
PSU -- McGloin 5-yard run (Ficken kick), 2:37. Drive: 15 plays, 85 yards, 5:38. Analysis: And McGloin burns the Wildcats again. For a third straight season, the Scranton native buries Northwestern after halftime. He helps the Lions convert a fifth fourth down, scrambling right and finding Brandon Moseby-Felder on fourth-and-2. That sets up a third-and-goal call from the Cats' 5. It's a pass all the way, but McGloin is again flushed from the pocket. He takes off, throws a quick pump fake and then does an awkward hopping sort of thing over the pylon for the winning score. It counts for six points just the same. PSU 32, NU 28.
PSU -- Zordich 3-yard run (Ficken kick), 1:30. Drive: 3 plays, 28 yards, 0:18. Comment: The Lions defense polishes off a strong afternoon by stopping the Cats deep in their own territory on fourth down. Northwestern still has two timeouts in its pocket, but Penn State makes sure it doesn't matter as two big runs by Zordich complete a stunning fourth-quarter. PSU 39, NU 28.
|Time of Possession||20:43||39:17|
RUSHING—Northwestern, Mark 13-72, Colter 5-24, Siemian 4-14, Trumpy 3-2. Penn St., Zwinak 28-121, Zordich 7-32, Belton 4-12, Team 2-(minus 2), McGloin 7-(minus 2).
PASSING—Northwestern, Siemian 21-36-0-135. Penn St., McGloin 35-51-0-282.
RECEIVING—Northwestern, To.Jones 4-27, Trumpy 3-28, Fields 3-21, Colter 3-17, C.Jones 3-16, Lawrence 2-18, Mark 2-6, K.Prater 1-2. Penn St., Robinson 9-85, Zwinak 6-52, Moseby-Felder 5-34, Carter 4-44, Zordich 4-31, Lehman 3-15, Gilliam 1-15, Williams 1-7, James 1-0, Belton 1-(minus 1).