STATE COLLEGE, Pa. – Matt McGloin threw a fourth-quarter touchdown pass and ran for the go-ahead score with 2 minutes, 37 seconds left to lift Penn State to a 39-28 victory over No. 24 Northwestern in a Big Ten Conference showdown Saturday at Beaver Stadium.
Michael Zordich scored on a 3-yard run with 1 minute, 30 seconds left to finish Penn State’s 21-point fourth quarter and improved to 4-2 overall and 2-0 in the Big Ten.
The Nittany Lions trailed 28-17 after the Wildcats’ Venric Mark returned a punt 75 yards for a touchdown in the final minute of the third quarter.
After that, however, the Lions showed their best offense of the season. They drove 82 yards in 18 plays for their first touchdown of the period, and 85 yards in 15 plays for the go-ahead score. On those two drives, Penn State converted eight third-down plays for first downs, and two fourth-down plays.
On fourth and four from the Northwestern 6, McGloin found Allen Robinson, who made a diving catch in the end zone. Michael Zordich went off left tackle for the two-point conversion, and Penn State trailed by three with 9:49 remaining.
The Wildcats (5-1, 1-1) ran three plays without a first down but their punt traveled 63 yards to the Penn State 15. But the Nittany Lions steadily drove down the field with McGloin scrambling and hitting Brandon Moseby-Felder on a 13-yard pass on fourth down to give them first and goal at the 6.
On second down, McGloin fumbled during a scramble but fell on the football. After a timeout, he rolled to his right and took off for the pylon, squeezing in for the touchdown with 2:37 to play.
The Wildcats turned the ball over on downs with 1:48 to play at their own 28, and the Lions scored an insurance touchdown on Zordich’s 3-yard run.
Penn State held a 10-0 lead before the momentum changed. Jesse Della Valle muffed a catch on a punt and Nick Van Hoose recovered for Northwestern on the Lions 17 to set up the visitors’ first touchdown, a 2-yard run by Mark.
The Wildcats scored again with 30 seconds left in the first half, an 11-yard pass from Trevor Siemien to Tony Jones, and went into the locker room with a 14-10 lead.
The advantage changed twice in the third quarter. Penn State drove 80 yards on its first possession and capped the march with McGloin’s 8-yard pass to Robinson. The Wildcats got the touchdown right back on a 10-yard run by Kain Colter and led 21-17.
Penn State punted on its next possession, and Mark made a number of shifty moves and ran away from Glenn Carson, the Lions’ last defender, to complete the 75-yard score, and Northwestern led by 11.
The Nittany Lions dominated the first quarter and part of the second, holding Northwestern without a first down on the Wildcats’ first four offensive possessions. But they led by just 10-0 on Sam Ficken’s 21-yard field goal and a 1-yard TD dive by Zach Zwinak.
The Wildcats came up with their initial first down of the game with 9:19 left in the second quarter. They had to punt, but picked up a break on Della Valle’s muff and the recovery by Van Hoose at the 17, setting up their first touchdown.
Contact Joe Juliano at 215-854-4494 or firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @joejulesinq