OUTBACK: Game Breakdown

The good, the bad and the very ugly from Penn State's loss to Florida in Tampa on New Year's Day.

TAMPA -- The stats from Florida's 37-24 win over Penn State at Raymond James Stadium Saturday reflect a game that was much closer than the final score indicated.

Each team had 17 first downs and five penalties. The Nittany Lions had 350 total yards, the Gators 270. PSU was 4 of 4 in the red zone, UF was 4 of 5.

So what was the difference?

Penn State (7-6) was its own worst enemy, turning over the ball five times -- all of them interceptions by sophomore quarterback Matt McGloin. The Lions also allowed a blocked punt for a score, a 48-yard kickoff return and a 27-yard punt return.

Here is what went down.

MAN OF THE HOUR: Cornerback D'Anton Lynn had an interception, a fumble recovery and generally shut down his assignments all day. He also had a tackle for loss.

CLOSE SECOND: Tailback Evan Royster wrapped his career by banging out 98 yards on 20 carries. We should have seen more of him. More on that later.

CLOSE THIRD: Defensive tackle Devon Still had his best game as a Lion, with 3.5 tackles for loss and seven total stops.

TURNING POINT: Leading 24-20 late in the third quarter and facing third-and-inches from its own 29, the Lion offensive brain trust eschewed the obvious -- running up the gut -- for a McGloin rollout right. The QB under-threw Justin Brown and was intercepted by linebacker Brandon Hicks. State never regained momentum.

SOLID STRATEGY: Realizing none of his three QBs could throw worth a hoot, Gator coach Urban Meyer put a heavy emphasis on the run. Sure, UF (8-5) averaged only 4.0 yards on 45 carries. But the safe approach resulted in only two turnovers.

NUMBERS GAME: Florida safety Ahmad Black had 129 return yards on two interceptions, including an 80-yard pick six. The Lions finished their season with 108 yards on interception returns.

BUSINESS AS USUAL: Wideout Derek Moye finished his junior season on a strong note, with five catches for 79 yards and a score.

SPECIAL DELIVERY: True freshman Alex Butterworth alternated with Anthony Fera at punter. The rookie averaged 42 yards on four kicks, including one that was downed inside the 20.

WHAT'S UP WITH?

• That crazy McGloin rollout on the key third-and-one play? He already had two picks by that point of the game and had at least four other should-have-been-interceptions dropped. Yet another example of this offensive staff getting too cute at key moments.

• PSU coach Joe Paterno playing the youth card -- again -- after the game. This was Penn State's 13th outing of the year, so there was no excuse for the shoddy play by the offense and special teams.

• The Lions not getting Royster more carries. He was punishing people when he got the ball in the second half.

• All the talk about SEC speed. The Gator DBs were obviously giving McGloin trouble. But beyond that, there was no noticeable difference in the speed of these two teams.

HIT SQUAD: Still was like a wrecking ball in the middle of the line all day.

HIDDEN HEROES: The Nittany Lion offensive linemen did not allow a sack.

LOST IN THE SHUFFLE: Royster went over 1,000 yards in a season for the third time. Penn State's all-time leading rusher finished his career with 3,942 yards and 29 touchdowns.

DID YOU NOTICE?

• Fera returned after missing the final two games of the regular season due to an appendectomy. He split punting duties with Butterworth (the block was on a Fera kick) but had to leave the kickoff job to Collin Wagner.

• Former starting corner Chaz Powell did not play on defense and saw limited action on special teams. When asked why, defensive coordinator Tom Bradley said Paterno would have to answer the question, indicating a disciplinary issue.

• With Powell out, Stephon Morris moved back into the starting job at corner. In nickel situations, fifth-year senior Shelton McCullough saw his first serious action of the year, playing one corner spot while Lynn moved to safety.

• Stefphon Green was knocked out of the game early with what appeared to be an ankle injury.

• On a key defensive stand late in the game, young linebackers Gerald Hodges and Glenn Carson were on the field in place of seniors Bani Gbadyu and Chris Colasanti.

UNANSWERED QUESTION: How long will this game stick with McGloin?


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