The 2011 Penn State football season is something to behold. Sloppy play paired with a coaching staff unwilling to pick a starting quarterback has made each first down feel special, let alone a the Nittany Lions' 4-0 record in Big Ten play. If Penn State fans haven't felt the same level of excitement about a 7-1 record as years past, it wouldn't be unexpected. It's the sort of feeling you get building up a house of cards; it's really cool the tower is so tall, but there's no way it won't fall down at some point.
In our theoretical card building world, Penn State may have finally gotten hold of the tape it needed to hold it's house of cards together. Matt McGloin, starting his first game since the Outback Bowl once again proved to be an efficient game manager, leading the Nittany Lions to two quick scores in the first quarter to keep up with an equally successful attack by Northwestern. McGloin's complete game under center which included 192 yards passing and two touchdowns was the anchor that the Penn State offense has so desperately needed.
Silas Redd had his fourth straight 100-plus yard game and another career night with 18 carries for a 164 yards and a touchdown. The true sophomore continued to put together perhaps the most impressive under-the-radar resume by any back this season. Redd has proven once again that he can not only shoulder the load as the feature back, but be just as deadly in the fourth quarter as he can be in the first. As Penn State reaches the final stretch of their season it would be difficult to find a player more valuable to the team's success than Redd.
Defensively after surviving the first half where Dan Persa put on a clinic on how to attack zone defense, Penn State buckled up and put together one of the more dominating performances in recent years. Racking up back-to-back sacks on three different occasions, Devon Still, Jordan Hill, and Jack Crawford dominated the line of scrimmage totaling 7 sacks.
Gerald Hodges also had a monster night, using his athletic abilities to pick up 14 tackles, 1.5 sacks, and a interception which he returned 63 yards. Over the past few weeks Hodges has really begun to grow into the player Penn State fans hoped he could be. While the loss of Michael Mauti left an gaping hole in the defense, the emergence of Gerald Hodges and Nate Stupar has been a welcome result to an unfortunate injury.
Penn State now sits in sole possession of first place in the Leaders/East/Pig Division (Michigan State upset Wisconsin tonight) in the Big Ten and face a struggling Illinois team next week for a crucial match up in Beaver Stadium. Northwestern falls to 0-4, 2-5 overall and goes on the road to play Indiana.