Lions, Hoosiers in Shellshocked Bowl in D.C.
Penn State travels to the Washington, D.C. metro area this afternoon to face Indiana in what can be called the "Shellshocked Bowl."
After last week's games, both teams probably spent time shaking their heads and wondering what happened.
The Nittany Lions jumped out to a surprising 14-3 halftime lead over heavily-favored Ohio State in Columbus, only to have the Buckeyes explode for 35 points in the second half to win going away, 38-14.
As for Indiana, the Hoosiers were not only blown out at Wisconsin, they were annihilated as the Badgers ravaged them 83-20.
Such is life in the topsy-turvy world of the Big Ten these days. While no one would be suprised by those wins by the Buckeyes and Badgers, especially since both are embroiled in the race for the conference title with Michigan State, the way they arrived at the outcomes raised eyebrows.
Penn State's season to date has been a pendulum swinging wildly from one end to the other, with little in between. In fact, the last two weeks have been microcosms for the Lions - a bad first half and a strong second half against Northwestern resulted in Joe Paterno's 400th career victory, but a solid first two quarters gave way to an avalanche vs. Ohio State at the Horseshoe.
Each of the Lions' losses have been by 20 points or more, and all but one of their wins (a 22-13 verdict over Temple) have been by double digits, so there has been very little middle ground.
That can be a sign of the growing pains of a youthful squad, which the Lions are.
Paterno named redshirt sophomore Matt McGloin as starter at quarterback for today's game, which is scheduled for a 12:01 p.m. kickoff and will be televised by the Big Ten Network.
The game is being played at the Washington Redskins' FedEx Field, and Indiana will be the home team.
The play of McGloin had been a major part of the Lions' resurgence over the past month, and he is a big reason PSU is sitting at 6-4 (3-3 Big Ten). His play sparked wins over Minnesota, Michigan and Northwestern, and he did so coming on in relief of freshman Rob Bolden against the Golden Gophers and Wildcats. He has completed 56 of his 100 pass attempts for 710 yards and 9 TDs.
In the first half against the Buckeyes, McGloin looked capable of engineering an upset, completing 13 of 18 passes for 141 yards and 2 TDs, connecting with Justin Brown and Derek Moye on the scoring strikes.
The second half was a different story, however, as McGloin was picked off twice, both returned for TDs by the Buckeyes. Devon Torrence's interception was tipped and bobbled, but he gained control for a 34 yard "pick six" that put OSU on top 17-14.
The real backbreaker, however, came when Dane Sanzenbacher came up with a tipped ball for a 58 yard TD after QB Terrelle Pryor threw into double coverage. That gave the Buckeyes breathing room at 24-14, and eveything crumbled for the Lions after that.
McGloin wasn't the first Lion QB to run into troubles with the OSU secondary. Of the last 10 passes PSU had intercepted in Columbus, six were returned for TDs by the home team.
"Mac played really well until the second half, obviously," said Paterno during his weekly press conference (full text is at www.gopsusports.com). He had what you expect sometimes of young quarterbacks. He got a little careless with the football; made up his mind to whom he was going to throw the football; and threw it right into the hands of the Ohio State kids, who did a good job.
"So, where McGloin goes from there is part of the process of maturing as a quarterback."
In the second half, the Lion's defense couldn't stop Dan Herron, who finished with 190 yards rushing as the Buckeyes piled up 341 yards in the ground. That opened things up for Terrelle Pryor and company to put the Lions away.
It won't help the Lions' cause that linebacker Michael Mauti, PSU's second leading tackler with 61, dislocated his shoulder. While he is listed as possible for today's game against the Hoosiers, Paterno said he doubted that Mauti would be ready.
With injuries playing havoc with the line-up, the Lions have had their ups and downs on defense this season. PSU is allowing 356.7 yards of total offense per game.
All things considered, this could be a good time for PSU to be facing the Hoosiers, who give up a whopping 411.6 yards and 33.6 points per game. Indiana enters the game at 4-6 and is winless (0-6) in the Big Ten.
The question is, which Hoosier team will the Lions see today - the one that got blasted by Wisconsin, or the one that had Iowa on the ropes before losing 18-13?
Bill Lynch is in his fourth year as head coach at Indiana and has a career mark of 18-29 at the helm.
The Hoosiers can moves the ball through the air behind senior QB Ben Chappell, who leads the Big Ten's top rated passing offense at 287.4 yards per game. Chappell was injured in the second quarter against Wisconsin but is expected to play today.
The Indiana receiving corps includes Damarlo Belcher, whose 68 catches top the conference, Terrence Turner and Tandon Doss. Trea Burgess leads the ground game with 341 yards on 88 carries.
Defensively, the Hoosiers top performers are junior linebacker Jeff Thomas, senior safety Mitchell Evans (a converted wide receiver) and junior defensive end Darius Johnson.
Indiana has never defeated PSU on the gridiron (0-13 all-time). The two most memorable games in the series came in 1994, when the unbeaten Lions were winning 35-14 in Bloomington when the Hoosiers tacked on some TDs in the fourth quarter against the PSU subs to cut the final to 35-29, dropping the then-top ranked Lions to number two; and in 2004, when the Lions stopped Indiana four times from the one-yard line to preserve a 22-18 win. Last year, Indiana jumped on top 10-0 at Beaver Stadium before the Lions pulled out a 31-20 win.
The two schools will continue to face each other on an annual basis, as they are slated to be in the same division when the Big Ten realigns next year.
NITTANY LINES - Punter Anthony Fera won't be available for today due to an injury ... freshman Silas Redd received a disorderly conduct citation and Paterno did not elaborate on Redd's status. RB Stephfon Green, who was shaken up vs. OSU, has a shot to play, according to Paterno, Evan Royster also emerged a bit banged up ... PSU was looking at using Nate Stupar and Khairi Fortt to replace the injured Mauti at outside linebacker ... safety Malcolm Willis made his first career interception vs OSU ... CB D'Anton Lynn had eight stops vs. the Buckeyes ...