There are no shortage of heroes from Penn State's most unpredictable win in anyone's memory. There was Christian Hackenberg, who, Joe Tessitore and Matt Millen inform me, is just 18 years old (this, I predict, is this year's "Evan Royster played lacrosse") leading Penn State down the field with not just a veteran's poise but decision-making and arm-strength and accuracy. There was Allen Robinson, quieted all day but able to come up with two unbelievable catches on that final drive, especially the last one, outleaping a corner to snag it with his fingertips, steadying the ball into his body in mid-air. There was DaQuan Jones and Kyle Baublitz, Anthony Zettel and Glenn Carson, Bill Belton and Brandon Felder, and another 50 players without whom we wouldn't still be a little bit hungover with glee.
But the best player on the field Saturday evening was C.J. Olaniyan, overshadowed all offseason by Deion Barnes, but just as capable, apparently, of breaking through and announcing his presence to the Big Ten. Olaniyan didn't just contribute to an unfathomably stout Penn State defensive line that not once let Michigan set the edge (30 rushes for 28 yards for Michigan running backs might just be my favorite stat from Saturday), but he was a terror off the edge, sacking Devin Gardner twice, forcing a fumble, and bringing enough pressure all evening that were Devin Gardner any other quarterback in this conference, save Braxton Miller, and just slightly less elusive, Olaniyan might well have had closer to a half dozen sacks. Oh, and even when he lost the initial battles, Olaniyan had enough awareness and smarts to get his hands up into the passing lanes, knocking down a pair of throws at the line for two of, gulp, Penn State's 3 pass breakups on the day.
He was the Big Ten defensive player of the week and deserved nothing less, so let's add to his terrific (long) weekend and bestow upon C.J. this most prestigious honor: You're the BSD MVP.
Bill Belton. After Zach Zwinak's fumble on the first play of the second half, it was all Belton, and given how he played, it would be no surprise to see him as Penn State's #1 running back moving forward. He's certainly more elusive, showed unbelievable patience on that 4th down run in the last overtime, and, if he can gain a modicum of balance such that the grass isn't Ohio State's leading tackler two weekends from now, could totally transform Bill O'Brien's offense.
The Fans. I, unfortunately, was in the minority among BSD writers in that I had to watch this one from my couch at home. But I'm not sure I've ever heard Beaver Stadium so loud as when Allen Robinson came down with Christian Hackenberg's bomb down to the one-yard line on that last drive. And I'm totally willing to chalk the blocked kick in the first overtime up to the crowd's chanting.
Al Borges. Hey, you know how Penn State's really vulnerable against the spread, how the quick passing game has and will continue to pick apart a mediocre secondary and soft coverage scheme, and how the defensive line is actually quite strong and you might not want to try running into it over and over again? Congratulations, you're not Al Borges!