A Weird Win Over Indiana

The day didn't go quite as scripted for Penn State. But nobody was complaining after the Nittany Lions put everything together late for a 41-24 win over the Hoosiers.

LANDOVER, Md. -- And here you thought that the weirdest part of Saturday's Penn State-Indiana game was the fact that the home team -- that would be IU -- was playing 647.5 miles from campus.

But after further review -- yes, another one -- that was a mere footnote on a day when referee Bill Witvoet and Co. threw no fewer than five plays up to the booth for replay consideration. Three of them involved would-be touchdowns, all of which were overturned.

It was also a day that began with both of Penn State's starting defensive tackles on the bench. Not to mention a starting offensive tackle. And a backup offensive lineman, too. The latter pair never appeared. And PSU lost its starting center to injury on its first possession as well.

Wacky stuff. And that's not all. Oh no, not by a long shot. A Penn State walk-on scored the go-ahead touchdown. And Joe Paterno might have hitched a ride to the game in a police car. (Though there is some dispute on that.)

Other than that, it was a pretty standard day for your Nittany Lions, who scored the day's first 14 points and last 17 points to win going away, 41-24.

Stefen Wisniewski, who started for PSU at guard but finished at center, acknowledged that the game was “kind of weird” and added, “It kind of had like a bowl-game feel to it.”

Not a good bowl game, though. More like a Meineke Car Care feel.

“Every year you get one of these games like this,” quarterbacks coach Jay Paterno said. “You've got to fight through it. If you win, you have to feel pretty good about it.”

And Wisniewski said he was in fact feeling good, even though he had to shift back to center, where he played last year, after Doug Klopacz was lost with a sprained left ankle on PSU's 10th offensive play.

“Great stadium,” Wisniewski said. “Glad we got a chance to play here.”

James Van Fleet was feeling even better. The redshirt sophomore linebacker (and walk-on) scooped up a blocked punt late in the third quarter and ran 21 yards for a touchdown, snapping a 24-24 tie.

“I've never really dreamed of taking back a punt and scoring a touchdown,” he said. “My dream is mostly playing linebacker here.”

But this one became a reality when backup safety Andrew Dailey stormed off the edge and smothered Chris Hagerup's boot. The ball bounced to Van Fleet.

“I didn't have time to think.,” he said. “It's, 'There's the ball. Pick it up and start running.' ”

The tone for the day had been set long before that. Long before kickoff, even. That's when the lead bus in the convoy from the Penn State hotel to FedEx Field broke down. Joe Paterno was on that bus, along with starting quarterback Matt McGloin, Wisniewski and several other players, and they were forced to adapt. McGloin said he and his teammates jumped on the second bus.

And what of Paterno?

“I don't even think he got on the second bus,” McGloin said. “I think he might have hopped in with a cop or something. I'm not too sure what happened.”

Paterno said in his postgame remarks that he took the second bus. And a school publicist knew nothing about the head coach riding in a police car.

Either way, the die had been cast. Things were not going to go according to form on this day.

The next evidence of that came when defensive tackles Devon Still and Ollie Ogbu did not start. Same for offensive tackle Chima Okoli. Still and Ogbu played in the second half, but neither Okoli nor offensive-line reserve De'Ontae Pannell played at all. All of them were late for the team breakfast.

That, coupled with the injury to Klopacz, gave the O-line a makeshift feel. Mike Farrell, who to this point in the season had played only left tackle, went the distance in Okoli's place on the right side. And with Wisniewski moving to center, redshirt freshman John Urschel was inserted at right guard.

“Given all that, we did pretty well,” Wisniewski said. “We would have done better if we hadn't had to make all those changes.”

The Lions jumped out to a 14-0 lead, and were up 17-7 in the second quarter when the proceedings were first interrupted by replay. Hoosiers quarterback Ben Chappell, spun to the turf by linebacker Gerald Hodges on a third-and-2 run, had the ball torn from his grasp by another PSU 'backer, Nate Stupar, who ran for an apparent touchdown.

Indiana coach Bill Lynch was incensed. He charged onto the field. He waved his arms in an attempt to incite the few Indiana fans in attendance (They were outnumbered by PSU followers for this supposed home game, five to one.) And in time Witvoet called for a review.

A long, long review.

Eventually, it was ruled -- correctly, it appeared -- that Chappell was down before Stupar relieved him of the ball.

“They have video evidence and I'm a video major, so I know that that stuff is very precise,” Stupar said. “When it happened I'm like, 'Hey, they got me.' ”

Indiana then drove for a touchdown, and early in the third quarter drew even at 17-all. The second review, of a play on which it was first judged that Penn State's Evan Royster had fumbled, also resulted in the call being overturned. The Lions then completed a TD march of their own.

Apparent touchdowns by Indiana's Damarlo Belcher and Penn State's Derek Moye were also overturned -- each team scored on those possessions anyway -- and an interception by the Lions' Drew Astorino was upheld. That came soon after Van Fleet's touchdown, and led to Collin Wagner's field goal early in the fourth quarter, giving the Lions a 34-24 lead.

Paterno was not about to complain about so many interruptions. As he said with a laugh, “I pushed for the replay 10 years ago.”

And, he added, “I think it's being fair to everybody, and that's basically what we want to do. I have no problem with it.”

He did say he was bothered when Indiana rallied from an early deficit to tie the game. At that point, Paterno confronted a few of his players.

“Are we back to where we usually are?” he asked them.

They assured him that they were not, that this day was going to be different.

And it was. In every way.

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