UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- So much of a 45-22 Big Ten Conference victory Saturday against Indiana was about the new Penn State, a team with an electric offense, a fiery quarterback and a wide receiver who can apparently jump over anything and spin around defenders like he's in a video game.
Quarterback Matt McGloin set the program's single-season record for passing yards (3,309) and career record for touchdown passes (45). Wide receiver Allen Robinson broke the single-season receptions record (73).
As coach Bill O'Brien said afterwards about the offense, "that bodes well for the future." In this sense, it was a game for perspective, a tribute to what Penn State (7-4, 5-2) has become in a few short months. But the celebratory milestones lacked some of the meaning because of Michael Mauti.
He suffered a knee injury of which O'Brien said afterwards they didn't know the extent. The player who has bridged the past, present and future more than anyone else couldn't enjoy this record day, and his teammates couldn't stop thinking about him.
"He's a huge reason why we're all here right now," fullback Mike Zordich said.
In the first quarter, Mauti was fighting off an Indiana blocker when another, running back D'Angelo Roberts, dived for a block at Mauti's left knee. He crumpled to the turf. A few minutes later he left for the locker room on a cart.
Zordich ran out to speak with him. The rest of the team and the coaching staff walked onto the field as the training staff tended to Mauti, who has recovered from two ACL injuries in his career.
Defensive coordinator Ted Roof had tears in his eyes speaking about him after the game. O'Brien referenced the future Hall of Famers he has coached in New England then said Mauti was as special as anyone. Offensive guard John Urschel compared him to Odysseus.
"The way he's kept this team together through the sanctions, through all this," Urschel said. "Honestly, I think he's done more than any football player could be asked as a leader."
Zordich did not exaggerate when he said Mauti was a major reason the team had stayed intact. He took the lead this summer. Though he never wanted to admit it, Mauti had become the face of the program, and behind the scenes he did even more.
Linebacker Mike Hull, who played in Mauti's spot the rest of the game, considered leaving after the sanctions. Mauti spoke to him every day, reminding Hull of his importance and how he would fit on the team.
And it wasn't just Hull he helped. It was several players.
"As many as he could," Hull said.
The offense, after a slow start, resumed into its normal self after Mauti's injury, with Robinson and McGloin heightening the connection they've had all season. Three times in the first half, McGloin threw a touchdown pass to Robinson. Two of them were high, thrown into traffic, where Robinson says McGloin trusts him to make the play.
Indiana (4-7, 2-5) cut a 28-13 halftime deficit to 28-22 early in the third quarter, but rushing touchdowns by Zach Zwinak and Zordich put the game away. The Hoosiers gained 454 passing yards against a porous secondary that was missing injured safety Malcolm Willis. On another day, a game where Penn State didn't gain a total of 546 yards and set all those records, it might have been enough to cause an upset. And with Mauti out the players weren't going to let something crazy happen.
In the fourth quarter, he returned to the sideline, wearing a Penn State cap and gray sweatpants, holding crutches. He sat on the bench and watched. Players said he didn't talk much about his injury. They could tell he was down.
When the game ended, the fans serenaded Mauti with a chant of his name. Then, after singing the alma mater, the seniors gathered for a photo.
Mauti set his crutches aside and stood next to his teammates. No picture of Penn State is complete without him.
PSU'S TOP ARMS
Matt McGloin broke Penn State's single-season passing yardage record Saturday. The top four (• -one game remaining):
Matt McGloin, 2012• 3,309
Daryll Clark, 2009 3,003
Kerry Collins, 1994 2,679
Anthony Morelli, 2007 2,651psusports
Mark Dent: firstname.lastname@example.org, Twitter: @mdent05. First Published November 18, 2012 5:00 AM