It was a special day in "Happy Valley" as it was Penn State's conference home opener as well as homecoming! Big Ten rival, #24 Northwestern was looking to spoil the party and start 6-0 for the first time in 50 years.
Penn State received the ball first, and even though it didn't produce any points, their special teams were able to down a punt at the one yd. line. Northwestern subsequently went 3 & out. As a matter of fact, Northwestern's offense started the game on four consecutive 3 & outs.
After Northwestern's first 3 & out, Penn State put together an 11 play, 22 yard drive, just enough for a Sam Ficken FG to give Penn State the first points of the game and give them a 3-0 advantage.
Both teams traded back several punts back and forth and until a little less than 12 minutes to go, Penn State went 40 yards in 8 plays, with most of the drive being anchored by FB Zach Zwinak,(who put together another 100 yd. rushing game) and finished the drive off with a TD run to give Penn State a 10-0 lead and seemingly in control of the game up until this point.
Penn State's defense came up with another stand to force Northwestern punt, but a Jesse Della Valle muffed punt allowed Northwestern to recover the ball deep down in Penn State territory and a few plays later capitalize off Penn State's miscue and scored a TD to cut the lead to a 10-7 deficit.
After a failed 4th down attempt by Penn State, Northwestern took over with possession with 2:15, though Penn State appeared to stop Northwestern's dive to make it 4th down, a questionable pass interference call was issued on Penn State. Giving Northwestern new life and a fresh set of downs. Once again, Northwestern made sure to cash in on a golden opportunity when Trevor Siemian passed to Tony Jones for a TD to give the Wildcats their first lead of the game, 14-10 heading into the half.
Northwestern got the ball first in the 2nd Half, as Penn State won the coin toss and elected to receieve first in the game. After a defensive stand by Penn State, Northwestern was forced to punt and quickly give the ball back to Penn State. The Nittany Lions put together a solid drive, that was once again lead by a strong running performance by Zack Zwinak as he ran the ball for 37 yards, and caught one for 6 receiving yards, a total of 43 offensive yards on an eventual scoring drive that saw Matt McGloin hi Alan Robinson on a slant pattern in the endzone to give back the lead to the Nittany Lions at 17-14. Northwestern though would look to rebound and in the process, take total control of the game.
On the Wildcats ensuing possession, they started at their own 29 and had no trouble moving the ball, as they put together their Wildcat Offense, causing some mismatches and confusion for the Penn State defense. Northwestern's upbeat tempo kept putting pressure on Penn State as they continued to run a no-huddle style offense, leaving the Nittany Lions not having any time to make subs. Northwestern eventually tired the Nittany Lion Defense down so much, that they were able to cap off an impressive scoring drive that only took the 4 minutes to go 71 yards and allowed them to reclaim the lead 21-17.
After a quick possession for the Nittany Lions that stalled after five plays, they were forced to punt. Northwestern's Vernic Mack took the ball and initally seemed he would be brought down inside their own 30, but he was able to cut back and give himself open field and run the ball down the sidelines giving Northwestern it's biggest lead of the game heading into the fourth quarter up 11.
Despite the complete turnaround, and Northwestern in complete control, Penn State remained calm. Starting on their own 18, Penn State methodically moved the ball and kept moving the chains for another set of downs. Penn State marched down the field lead by Matt McGloin, who connected on short, but effective passes to keep moving the ball forward. Penn State faced a 4th and 4 situation, and with their constant blunders with their field goal kicker, Penn State was forced to go for it. McGloin snapped the ball and went over the middle in the endzone to connect with his favorite target Alan Robinson (their second hook up of the day) Penn State gambled and went for two, and it paid off as Michael Zordich ran it easily into the endzone to convert on the 2 point conversion.
Now all Penn State's Defense had to do was hold Northwestern's offense to a stop. Which already had proven to be a difficult task for much of the second half for the Nittany Lions. However, just like the beginning of the game, Penn State's Defense forced Northwestern to a quick 3 & out. Once again, the leadership of Matt McGloin took over with an effective passing game alongside the contributions fro Zack Zwinak and Alan Robinson, stepped up as the leaders of the team, which ended with a Matt McGloin finishing it off with a 5 yd TD run to once again reclaim the lead with a 32-28 lead and needed just one more stop to secure this upset win.
Again, Penn State's Defense from the first half showed up again, and it couldn't have been at a better time, as they forced the Wildcats into a 4th & 7th situation, Trevor Siemian threw a pass that ended up being overthrown, and on Penn State's following possession, Michael Zordich put a ribbon and bow on the game after three quick plays to take it into the endzone to secure Penn State's fourth straight win, with a 39-28 victory over the 24th ranked Northwestern Wildcats. Penn State Improves to 4-2, and Northwestern drops it's first game of the season, and most likely will drop out of the top 25 after only being in it for a week
1. Matt McGloin 35-51 282yds passing 2TD passes
2. Alan Robinson 9 receptions 85 yards 2 TD
3. Zach Zwinak 28 attempts, 121 yds rushing 1TD
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