Early in the third quarter on Saturday, Penn State linebacker Michael Mauti had to negotiate with a team doctor to get his helmet back after taking a hit to the head.
“At first, I was getting worried because they weren’t (giving it back),” Mauti said. “I had to kind of prove to them that I was clear headed.”
So Mauti, who admitted after the game that he went “black” for a moment after the hit, was put through a test on the sideline. Start at 100 and keep subtracting seven.
“I was like sitting there trying to subtract seven and I’m like ‘dude give me a smaller number,' ” Mauti said, laughing. “But after a couple minutes, they could tell I was fine so Doc gave me my helmet back.”
The Nittany Lions are surely happy he did. After a week of conversation concerning the defense’s lack of success in forcing turnovers, the junior outside linebacker intercepted Mike Gerardi in the fourth quarter to set up the game-winning drive in Penn State’s 14-10 win over Temple.
As the offense sputtered for the second straight week, Penn State’s defense kept the team in the game.
Tom Bradley’s unit intercepted Gerardi twice and recovered a fumble. It shut out Temple in the second half and kept its opponent out of the end zone for the final three quarters.
The Owls, who outscored their first two opponents 83-10, managed just 197 total yards of offense.
Mauti led the team with six tackles, including three for loss. He had a pass breakup in addition to his interception.
“He’s a tough kid,” Penn State middle linebacker Glenn Carson said of Mauti. “He’s definitely ‘Linebacker U’ material, definitely a Penn State linebacker. That’s what Penn State linebackers do.”
The defensive numbers don’t tell the whole story, either. The Nittany Lions were put in a couple bad positions due to the offense’s shortcomings.
Defensive end Sean Stanley forced Pierce to fumble in the third quarter, giving his team the ball at its own 48-yard line and a good opportunity to score. But on the next play, quarterback Rob Bolden threw an interception to Kee-ayre Griffin.
“We just talked as a defense, we can only control one side of the ball,” Astorino said. “So every time we’re out there we want to go out, get turnovers, help the offense, get three and outs and just do what we can to help out our offense. That’s the only thing we can control.”
Penn State’s defense was slow out of the gate, allowing an 8-play, 82-yard drive on Temple’s first possession that culminated in a two-yard Bernard Pierce touchdown run.
Safety and senior co-captain Drew Astorino said the unit “woke up a little bit” after that touchdown. Pierce finished with just 54 yards on 17 carries, while Gerardi and Chester Stewart passed for a combined 123 yards.
“When you play a guy like Pierce, you’ve got to stay square, attack him. He’s a strong runner,” said Bradley, Penn State’s defensive coordinator. “You’ve got to run through and tackle him. If you don’t, he’s not going down.”
Penn State’s offense struggled for the second week in a row. Coach Joe Paterno continued to shuffle quarterbacks Rob Bolden and Matt McGloin on Saturday with neither particularly standing out.
McGloin said the defense is going to keep the team in a lot of games this year if the offense struggles, calling it a “great defensive unit.”
“We’re lucky to have them,” McGloin said. “But we have to continue to improve as an offense because it’s not fair to them.”
-- Jake Kaplan