Wisconsin loss opens door for PSU
EVANSTON, Ill. - Penn State has a tough closing schedule and still faces a tall order going to Wisconsin for the regular-season finale, but the Badgers' loss to Michigan State has created an opportunity for the Nittany Lions.
Wisconsin still has to play at Ohio State next week, and if the Buckeyes can pull off the upset, that would be two conferences losses.
If that were to happen, even if the Lions would lose at Wisconsin in the finale, they still could reach the Big Ten title game as the Leaders Division champions if they can take care of business between now and then.
McGloin says he wasn't hurt
There was speculation quarterback Matt McGloin suffered a concussion last week against Purdue, but he said that wasn't the case.
"I took a shot last week," he said. "All the tests, everything came out negative."
He did practice each day but noted he didn't do much on Monday.
First-half TD big for PSU
Last year against Northwestern, McGloin led the Lions down the field in the final 50 seconds for a big touchdown pass to Brett Brackett that pulled the team within 21-7.
Saturday, It took only 34 seconds to 63 yards for a go-ahead TD that made it 27-24.
McGloin said he recalled the drive a year ago, which gave him confidence when he took the field in the closing seconds of the half Saturday.
"As an offense we love when there's just a little bit of time left to see if we can get anything there," he said. "We had some good field position, the playcalling was great and we moved the ball right down the field."
Persa can't do it all for Wildcats
Dan Persa put on quite a show for Northwestern, but his team's chances all but ended when he went down with a right leg injury with 9:51 to play.
Persa completed 26-of-34 passes for 294 yards and also ran 10 times for 30 yards. He suffered an Achilles injury late last season and had said he was only 80 percent healthy, but he gutted it out with a strong performance before getting hurt.
Northwestern's backup quarterback, Kain Colter, was 2-of-2 for 18 yards and also caught a team-high six passes for 43 yards. The Wildcats' offense gave Penn State fits in the first half, but it fizzled in the second half and was shut out.
"Our performance tonight was a tale of what ifs," Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald said of his team's homecoming loss. "We had plenty of opportunities, especially in the second half, to do the things that winners do, but unfortunately we were not able to accomplish that."
The Wildcats (2-5, 0-4) dropped their fifth straight game and have allowed at least 34 points in their past four games. Their strong offense once again wasn't able to make up for their poor defense.
"Every game we have been in here for the last month, and we've had plenty of opportunities to win the football game, but we just haven't done that," Fitzgerald said.
Crazy start for Powell
Penn State kickoff returner Chaz Powell had a wild start to the game. He fumbled on the opening kickoff, giving Northwestern prime field position that led to a touchdown. Then on the ensuing kickoff, Powell returned it 54 yards to the Wildcat 44, helping set up a PSU touchdown.
"My lunch came up on the fumble, so I was going to kill him to start the game," defensive coordinator Tom Bradley said. "Last week I was loving him, this week I'm killing him."
JoePa not on sideline
Joe Paterno once again coached the entire game from the press box. He was down on the field for pregame warmups and met with Fitzgerald at midfield but decided not to try and give it a go from the sideline.
Several of the players were happy to be part of Paterno's 408th win, tying Eddie Robinson.
"It's exciting as a football player," quarterback Matt McGloin said. "You really can't describe it to help out Coach Paterno get two big victories there. As of now it's probably not going to hit me as much as it will 20 years down the road."
Morris doesn't make trip
Backup cornerback Stephon Morris did not make the trip for undisclosed reasons. Morris is not injured but missed practice time during the week, reportedly because he was frustrated with his playing time.
Joe Paterno said Morris "had a little setback, but he'll be ready next week."
Next up: Illinois
The Fighting Illini lost to Purdue on Saturday, 21-14, and their offense struggled for the second straight game. Illinois scored only seven points against Ohio State two weeks ago.
Penn State's players had an opportunity to watch the Illinois game on TV in the hotel Saturday afternoon.
"With them losing today, they're definitely going to come in there thinking they can win at Beaver Stadium because they did that last year," defensive lineman Jordan Hill said.
On Illinois' struggling offense, Hill added, "I guess you could say it stuck with them from Ohio State not scoring in that first half, but they got it going."
Illinois defeated Penn State at Beaver Stadium last year, 33-13.
News and notes
WR Curtis Drake was able to play and made one catch for 11 yards. He has been trying to see more action as he returns from a broken leg that cost him the 2010 season. ... RB Stephon Green went down with a left leg injury in the closing minutes and limped off the field. ... CB Malcolm Willis suffered a right leg injury late in the third quarter but walked off on his own power. ... Anthony Fera split the punting duties with Alex Butterworth, with the latter coming in when it called for trying to pin Northwestern inside the 20.
(Compiled by Cory Giger)