For the second time in three years, Penn State used a furious fourth quarter rally to beat Northwestern.
Matt McGloin led the Nittany Lions (4-2, 2-0 Big Ten) to 22 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to erase an 11-point deficit in the 39-28 win. Two years ago in Beaver Stadium, the Lions rallied from a 21-0 deficit to beat the Wildcats.
This one could have been broken down into three sub games. First, Penn State’s 10-0 lead early in the second quarter, then Northwestern’s 28-17 lead, and finally Penn State’s fourth quarter blitz.
Things looked grim for Penn State’s homecoming weekend contest when Northwestern’s Venric Mark took back a punt for a 75-yard touchdown to give the Wildcats a 28-17 lead heading to the fourth quarter. But the Nittany Lions refused to quit, and put together a furious rally that started with a six-yard touchdown throw from McGloin to Allen Robinson with 9:49 left in the fourth. After a Michael Zordich two-point conversion, the Lions held Northwestern scoreless until Matt McGloin found the endzone from five-yards out with 2:37 left to give the Lions the lead at 32-28. About a minute later following a Wildcats turnover on downs, Zordich reversed field and plunged into the endzone from nine yards out to put the Lions up 39-28 and out of reach.
Penn State has now won four-straight including back-to-back wins in the Big Ten. McGloin completed 35 of a season-high 51 attempts for 282 yards and a pair of touchdowns. With his additional score on the ground, McGloin has accounted for 15 touchdowns this season. Tailback Zach Zwinak added a touchdown in the second quarter in addition to his career-high 28 carries for 128 yards on the day. Allen Robinson yet again led the Lions in receptions with nine for 85 yards and two touchdowns. Senior Gerald Hodges led the Penn State defense with 11 tackles and forced a fumble.
With the loss, Northwestern was once again denied a 6-0 start. The Wildcats haven’t started a season 6-0 since 1962, and fall to 5-1 (0-1 Big Ten) this season. They’ll also drop out of the AP Top 25, where they were ranked 24th this week. The Wildcats high-octane offense was held to just 247 total yards, and their rushing attack that averaged 255 yards coming in, put up just 112 on the day. Penn State did a great job corralling quarterback Kain Colter, who carried the ball just five times for 24 yards and a touchdown. The throwing quarterback, Trevor Siemian, was held to just 135 yards passing and one touchdown.
The telling stat in this one was time of possession, as the Nittany Lions nearly doubled up the Wildcats – 39:17 to 20:43 – on the day. Penn State also racked up 30 first downs to Northwestern’s 14. Penn State was also a dominant five for six on fourth down conversions, brought upon by their ineffective kicking game although Sam Ficken did hit all five of his kicks on the day (one FG, four PAT’s).
Penn State, and coach Bill O’Brien, executed their game plan to an extreme level in this one. Penn State wanted to keep the ball away from the high-powered Wildcat offense by playing ball-control offense. With more than 39 minutes of possession on the day, the Lions never allowed the Wildcat offense to get in any rhythm. The result produced a season-low of total plays for the Northwestern offense and in turn, into a Penn State victory.
Game ball goes to…
Matt McGloin, QB, Penn State. Down 11 in the fourth quarter of a game your team had dominated so far, McGloin kept his poise and led his team to 22 unanswered points in the last nine minutes. As the senior would admit, he didn’t quite have his best game (averaged just 5.2 yards per pass), but hung in there and was money on third and fourth down (15-28 combined) all day long. McGloin gets another game ball.
After a bye week this week, Penn State travels to Kinnick Stadium to battle the Iowa Hawkeyes (3-2, 1-0 Big Ten) on Oct. 20th at 8 pm.