Defensive starters go down as Nittany Lions finally find some offensive life
Penn State linebackers Gerald Hodges, right, and Khairi Fortt tackle Eastern Michigan quarterback Alex Gillett in the first half Saturday at Beaver Stadium. The Nittany Lions sacked Gillett three times in the first half.
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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Penn State's listless offense finally showed some life Saturday.
But the 34-6 non-conference victory against Eastern Michigan before an announced crowd of 95,636 at Beaver Stadium was a costly one for the Nittany Lions defense.
Starting outside linebacker Mike Mauti is out for the season after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in the first quarter. And starting cornerback D'Anton Lynn was carted off late in the third quarter and taken to nearby Mount Nittany Medical Center. He later was released after being checked for neck and spinal cord injuries.
"Obviously, [they're] two of our better players," coach Joe Paterno said. "I feel sorry for the kids. They've worked awfully hard. It kind of takes a little bit off the win."
Lynn, a senior three-year starter, made his 30th consecutive start Saturday for Penn State's defense, which was ranked ninth nationally entering the game.
He had his facemask cut off after a helmet-to-helmet hit and was placed on a back board before leaving the field.
"Anytime you lose a Mike Mauti or a D'Anton Lynn, it definitely hurts, it's definitely painful," said backup quarterback Matt McGloin, who completed 14 of 17 passes for 220 yards and three touchdowns.
Defensive coordinator Tom Bradley said Lynn was experiencing "burners down his arms" but was moving his extremities. Bradley added he "had no idea" how long Lynn would be sidelined. Junior Stephon Morris, who started 10 games last season, and freshman Adrian Amos, filled in at Lynn's spot.
Mauti, a redshirt junior with 11 career starts, was injured when his left knee buckled despite no contact at the conclusion of a play. He missed the 2009 season with an ACL injury to his right knee.
"You never want to lose anybody, especially guys who play that big of a role on the team and on defense," said wide receiver and co-captain Derek Moye, who caught his first two touchdown passes of the year. "It's tough."
Fifth-year senior Nate Stupar, who made seven starts last year, replaced Mauti and had a team-high seven tackles, including three for losses. He also had one of the team's three quarterback sacks.
"It's just one game, but I thought I played pretty well today," Stupar said. "I am just sad with what happened to Mauti -- you never want to see someone go down like that."
Paterno isn't sure how his team will respond to the loss of two key players.
"There's a lot of ways to handle adversity," he said. "You can feel sorry for yourself or it can bind you together. A couple of guys gotta rise to the occasion and say, 'Hey, we don't have this guy, we don't have that guy, I gotta to a little bit more, I gotta to be a little better.'
"Hopefully, we have some guys who will do that."
Paterno patrolled the sideline in the first half for the first time this season, but went to the coaches booth after halftime "because I was hurting."
He was pleased with the play of his two quarterbacks. Starter Rob Bolden and McGloin, who entered the game in the second quarter, finally threw their first touchdown passes of the season.
McGloin connected on scoring strikes of 5 and 20 yards to Moye, who had six catches for 65 yards and moved into third place in school history with 2,026 receiving yards and fourth place with 17 touchdowns.
Moye, from Rochester High School, has caught nine touchdown passes in the past 11 games from McGloin.
McGloin also threw a 27-yard touchdown pass to fullback Joe Suhey and Bolden tossed a 71-yarder to wide receiver Devon Smith, who had three receptions for a career-high 104 yards. Bolden finished 7 of 13 for 115 yards. He also tossed an interception against the Eagles (2-2).
Despite Penn State's offensive success, the players were having trouble shaking off the injuries to Mauti and Lynn.
"They are huge," said tailback Silas Redd, who had 48 yards on 12 carries. "Those guys are excellent players and key players for our defense."
NOTES -- Anthony Fera became the first starter since Chris Bahr in 1975 to handle punts, kickoffs and field goals in a game. Fera made a 29-yard field goal and freshman San Ficken added a 43-yarder. ... Free safety Nick Sukay, from Greensburg Central Catholic, had his sixth career interception. Linebacker Glenn Carson and defensive end Jack Crawford recovered fumbles. ... Crawford and defensive end Eric Latimore had sacks. ... Safety Malcolm Willis blocked a punt.
First Published September 25, 2011 12:00 am