STATE COLLEGE - Beaver Stadium was jumping on Saturday afternoon and Bill O'Brien got his first glimpse of how powerful nittany nation can really be.
The Nittany Lions faced their toughest opponent of the 2012 season this weekend, facing off with the 24th ranked Northwestern Wildcats. Things certainly didn't look good early, but when it was all said and done, PSU rallied from a 11-point fourth quarter deficit to come away with a 39-28 BIG 10 victory. Some people thought that Penn State football was left for dead when the NCAA sanctions were passed down earlier this year. The Nittany Lions themselves are certainly proving that theory to be dead wrong.
Things did not look to great heading into the fourth quarter. Northwestern running back Venric Mack took an Alex Butterworth punt 75 yards for a touchdown with 50 seconds left to go in the third quarter. Penn State could of backed down, they could of went away, they could of gave up, but they didn't.
Matt McGloin led the Penn State offense on a furious comeback, scoring three times in the final 9:49 of the fourth. It all started with McGloin's 6-yard touchdown pass to Allen Robinson on a fourth down attempt, which brought the Nittany Lions within three, 28-25 after a successful two-point conversion attempt.
Then McGloin would bring the Nittany Lions' offense into scoring territory yet again and this time he scrambled from about five yards out to send Beaver Stadium into an uproar. The McGloin score would give PSU a 32-28 lead and a Michael Zordich score on the next possession would lock up the win for the Nittany Lions.
"You get into a rhythm on a drive and you've been with this kid (McGloin) for nine months now, and you know what plays he likes," said O'Brien. "You just keep it going. You're only looking for two yards and hopefully you can squeeze a pass in there or he can scramble or something good can happen because you know he's going to make the right decision."
McGloin started out shaky, but got better as the day went on. He also led an offense that not only came back to win the game, but also went for broke on multiple occasions. The Nittany Lions went for it on fourth down six times on Saturday, converting five. PSU is 13 of 20 on fourth down conversions this season, which is tops in the country in both categories.
"A lot of times, it's worked out this year where it's been about field position," said O'Brien. "If we have the right field position and it's out of Sam's (Ficken) range, it might be better to have a good play. Especially if it's a manageable fourth down. We practice those situations. Sometimes they work, sometimes they don't and you gotta live with when they don't work."
McGloin's ability to bring PSU back late in the game is something that Penn State fans are not used to seeing. However, not much can be said about McGloin's performance this season. The senior has thrown close to 1,500 yards and has 12 touchdowns to just two interceptions. He's certainly been efficient and it's become evident that McGloin is thriving under Bill O'Brien's guidance. The Nittany Lions signal caller commented on the PSU offense and their success in the red zone at the end of the game.
"If you get in the red zone you have to score, in my opinion," said McGloin. "We have a really good red zone offense and we have a ton of plays."
The win over Northwestern puts Penn State in a great position moving forward. Right now the Nittany Lions are tied for first place in the BIG 10 Leaders Division with Ohio State at 2-0. Things are looking up in State College and even though PSU can't be bowl-bound at the end of the season O'Brien knows the Nittany Lions still have plenty to play for.
"The people who say we don't have anything to play for aren't a part of this program," said O'Brien. "That's not their fault, but they don't know."