In the first half, Northwestern posted 24 points on the Nittany Lion defense—only second to Alabama's 27 total points posted in September. Meanwhile, the Wildcats' defense surrendered 293 yards of offense in the first half, while allowing 27 points.
Coming out of the locker room in the second half, the Wildcats' defense made necessary adjustments, holding Penn State's offense to just 96 total yards in the second half. In this half, however, it was the NU offense that struggled, and could not find the scoreboard.
"Our performance tonight was a tale of what-ifs," NU head coach Pat Fitzgerald said to the media after the game. "We had plenty of opportunities—especially in the second half—to do the things that winners do but, unfortunately, we were not able to accomplish that."
Dan Persa had a strong showing, completing 26 of 34 passes for 294 yards, but his biggest mistake would cost the Wildcats dearly, for the second consecutive week. Persa threw an interception to Penn State linebacker Gerald Hodges, who ran 63 yards to the 19 yard line. On the Nittany Lion's next play, Silas Redd would run in for a touchdown, giving his team a 10-point lead—the final margin in the game.
"The credit goes to Penn State, they obviously did the fundamentals better than we did and they made some big plays," said Fitzgerald. "That interception that turned into a touchdown was the difference in the one-score game."
Northwestern's offense appeared to be gaining momentum in the fourth quarter, as Persa led them down to the red zone with ample time left in the game. However, things would go horribly wrong for the Wildcats. Persa would injure his right foot—no, not his achillies—and would not return to action—a coaches' decision, according to Pat Fitzgerald.
Backup quarterback Kain Colter enter the game, and problems would occur. Colter was sacked twice—first for a loss of 17, the next one for a loss of 11. The Wildcats were backed up to the 41 yard line, and out of field goal range.
The Wildcats had some drastic changes for Saturday's game. The team donned new purple jerseys with purple pants and silver helmets—a special one-time design from Adidas—but the most notable alteration came in the starting defense. Possibly facing desperation, Pat Fitzgerald made five changes in his starting defense.
"I think the number one motivator in the world is to watch on the bench," Fitzgerald said. "You can figure it out and play consistently, or you can get the best seat in Ryan Field and sit on the bench next to me."
The Wildcats' losing streak has reached five with the loss to Penn State, and the players are growing increasingly frustrated. NU's next chance to get back in the win column comes on Saturday, when they travel to Bloomington to meet with Indiana. They hope to rid their aggravation with a win.
"When you're losing games, no one is going to be happy, it's standard procedure," senior safety Brian Peters said. "We got to turn that frustration into motivation. We've got to start making things happen."