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Devlin's patience pays off for Penn State

10/26/2008

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The disappointment in Pat Devlin's voice was unmistakable.

He had just lost Penn State's quarterback competition to Daryll Clark after a tightly contested race through the spring and summer. The former Pennsylvania high school superstar, who reneged on a commitment to Miami to play for Joe Paterno and the Nittany Lions, suddenly faced an uncertain future.

When Devlin joined a conference call with reporters, he knew the questions were coming, the ones about transferring.

"People are going to wonder," Devlin recalled Saturday night. "I don't know how rumors start, but people get these ideas in their heads."

Fortunately for Penn State, the idea of transferring never went through Devlin's head.

"Just because you're disappointed doesn't mean your confidence goes away," Devlin said.

The sophomore displayed that confidence in crunch time Saturday night. He relieved Clark and led Penn State on two scoring drives in the final 10:38, scoring the go-ahead touchdown on a sneak behind center A.Q. Shipley.

Devlin didn't complete a pass -- Ohio State was flagged for pass interference on a post route to Derrick Williams -- but he had the touchdown run and picked up a first down on Penn State's final drive to kill more clock. Most important, he avoided a mistake.

"I've said that since Day 1, I have a lot of confidence in Devlin," Paterno said. "Devlin's a good football player. He had a lot of poise and knew what was going on. He milked the clock, he did everything we wanted him to do. "

"[Quarterbacks coach Jay Paterno] and I helped him out, to make sure he knew he was one play away."

Clark sustained an apparent concussion on a 7-yard run late in the third quarter. He remained in the game and finished the drive, which ended with a missed field goal, before being replaced.

"I don't think he knew where he was," quarterbacks coach Jay Paterno said. "It was a medical decision all the way."

Added wideout Deon Butler: "You can tell when someone's zoned out. They're looking somewhere, but they're really not there. He was fighting, but you could tell."

The morning of game day, Jay Paterno showed the offense film of Illinois' game-winning, clock-killing, run-oriented drive at Ohio State last year. He had done a similar thing in 2005 at Northwestern, showing players tape of a perfectly executed two-minute offense.

Penn State rallied to beat Northwestern in the final minutes with the two-minute drill. And on Saturday, the Lions outlasted Ohio State with run plays and good clock management.

"I'm going to try and pick a tape next week that has a blowout on it," Jay Paterno said.

Like his father, Jay always had faith in Devlin's poise, which was only reinforced through the competition with Clark. Devlin had appeared in all but one game entering Saturday night, completing 21 of 41 passes for 367 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions.

"Knowing Pat, you just know that he's waiting for this opportunity, waiting for a chance to prove himself and show that he can play, too," said wide receiver Graham Zug, Devlin's roommate. "He did that tonight."