After he was cleared to practice on Tuesday, Connor's status for Saturday's game was still up in the air. It seems the only person who wasn't thinking about the mess was Tim Shaw, who, with Connor again out of action, put together his third straight outstanding performance at outside linebacker.
And this may have been his best showing yet, as Shaw came through with eight tackles and two momentum-swinging sacks of CMU QB Kent Smith in the first half alone.
Smith, who came into Saturday's game riding a huge high after accounting for 478 yards of total offense in Central Michigan's victory over Miami (Ohio) a week earlier, was clearly the main focus of the Penn State defense heading into the game.
The concern all week was him, said Shaw. We definitely wanted to get after him a little bit. He can let it go. He's a great passer.
Thanks to Shaw and the rest of the Penn State front seven, Smith was held in check to the tune of 143 passing yards and a demoralizing minus-39 yards on the ground. His rushing stats may be a bit deceiving, as Penn State applied pressure all day long, leading to eight sacks for the defense. Shaw accounted for two of those drops.
I thought he had a great game, said junior linebacker Paul Posluszny. He obviously made a lot of big plays.
Shaw, a Livonia, Mich., native, was a star running back at Clarenceville High, where he set Michigan prep records for career yards (7,611) and touchdowns (131). After his freshman year, however, the Penn State coaching staff decided to switch him over to linebacker, using a redshirt season to help the process.
He hasn't played linebacker for that long, but each week he gets better and gets more comfortable, said Posluszny. He's a great player.
That's high praise from Posluszny, a man who knows a little something about the linebacker position.
I think his biggest asset is that he's a great athlete, Posluszny continued. He might be one of the fastest guys on our defense. He can flat out fly. Each week he continues to get better and better.
Tim was wrapping them up today, added senior defensive tackle Scott Paxson, who also accounted for one half of a sack in the game.
While Posluszny and the rest of the defense seem to feel good about Shaw's play, Shaw himself is a bit more critical.
The numbers can be a little deceiving. There are still a lot of things that I could look back on and know I messed up, Shaw said. Maybe I didn't see a guard, maybe I misread the play. I just want to be perfect on every play. I know that's not going to happen, but I keep striving for that.
While Shaw admits to being initially nervous about the move from running back, things have worked out well. Whether he remains outside when Connor finally returns or moves back to the inside slot he played in the spring remains to be seen.
More certain is the fact that he will be enjoying himself whichever spot he mans.
I'm loving playing linebacker right now, Shaw said with a smile.