STATE COLLEGE – Michael Yanchich walked off the blue bus knowing his role for Saturday's game – to guard against a fake punt or blocks.
Naturally, with the ball backed up at the Ohio State 14-yard line, he could only assume his role was that of a special teams stand-in.
Yanchich instead found himself in the end zone with the ball – the first career touchdown for a senior journeyman.
First off, I never thought it would happen. It was a really tremendous feeling, he said. Words can't describe what was going through my mind and my body after I got up.
Yanchich recovered a blocked punt for a touchdown to put Penn State ahead by a 7-0 score in a 35-23 loss to Ohio State.
They always say that special teams they could be some of the more explosive plays during the game, Yanchich said. I think that really boosted us, got the crowd into it, got our offense and defense going as well.
Mike Hull came in unscathed up the middle and blocked the Ben Buchanon punt off his foot. Just as Hull was going to pounce on the ball at the 1-yard line, he saw Yanchich and swiped the ball to the end zone.
I saw the ball; I really didn't know where I was at, Yanchich said. Then Mike just started screaming, ‘We scored. We scored.' Next thing I know I am jumping up and down with the ball.
Hull said that he told Yanchich on the sidelines afterwards that he saw his fellow Washington County native out of the corner of his eye and flipped the ball over to him.
The expected elation of scoring a touchdown in front of 107,818 fans pleasantly surprised a player who seen limited action in his four years in State College. Yanchich came into the season with just four career tackles. He recorded 13 stops this season but didn't tally any in Saturday's loss to the Buckeyes.
O'Brien, who often touts role players like Yanchich, moved the Washington, Pa. native to special teams this season.
I was just given my role at the beginning of the season, Yanchich said. I knew I was going to be primarily a special teams player. It feels good knowing that I could just contribute and make a difference.
Over his career, Yanchich has accepted any role he's been given. Last season, he spent the majority of the season lined up in the tight end slot to add depth to the position. Several linebackers jumped his on the position chart, but Yanchich remains unphased by it.
I really embrace my role as a special teams player, Yanchich said. We have excellent linebackers ahead of me now, and I have no problem with them playing and making our defense the best it can be. I'll gladly keep my role in the special teams if we keep playing the way we're playing.
His fellow linebackers on the team said the highlight of the tough loss was seeing their scrappy, role-playing teammate score a memorable touchdown.
It's unreal, middle linebacker Glenn Carson said. He's such a hard worker, and I love the kid to death. Coach O'Brien always talks about knowing your role on the football team, and he's a guy that every week kills it on special teams. If you watch him or watch him on film, he's an absolute machine. He's doing a great job for this team. So it's really good to see him get a touchdown. That's a really important thing for him.