Has there been a more pleasant surprise in the Big Ten this season than the vast improvement in Penn State's passing game?
Once a liability, the Nittany Lions now have one of the best aerial attacks in the league under first-year coach Bill O'Brien. It was on full display in a 45-22 win against Indiana on Saturday.
No one has benefited more from O'Brien's arrival than senior quarterback Matt McGloin and sophomore receiver Allen Robinson, who had monster games against the Hoosiers. McGloin threw for a career-best 397 yards and tied his career high with four touchdown passes -- all in the first half. Robinson was not surprisingly McGloin's favorite target, finishing with 10 catches for 197 yards and three of those scores.
McGloin eclipsed 3,000 passing yards on the season and became Penn State's career leader in passing yards and passing touchdowns. Robinson needed just one catch to become Penn State's single-season receptions leader, and he did a whole lot more than that.
The Nittany Lions led 28-13 at halftime, but Indiana did make a little run. The Hoosiers scored on their opening drive of the second half and kicked a field goal a few minutes later after a Penn State fumble to make it 28-22. Third quarters haven't been to kind to Penn State this season.
But the Lions responded by scoring two more touchdowns before the third quarter ended. An Adrian Amos interception deep in his own red zone closed out another Hoosiers scoring chance. Michael Zordich and Zach Zwinak (133 rushing yards) helped drain the clock.
But it wasn't all good news for Penn State, which assured itself a winning season with its seventh win. Early in the game, star linebacker Michael Mauti was carted off with a left knee injury. It sure looks like his injury-ravaged career is now over, and that's just a horrible stroke of bad luck for a guy who has meant so much to this program. No doubt, the Nittany Lions will be dedicating next week's finale at least in part to Mauti. We just hope he can recover enough to have a deserved career at the next level.
As for Indiana, at least the Hoosiers played better than they did last week against Wisconsin. Cameron Coffman threw for 454 yards and a pair of scores, though he did have two interceptions. But the IU defense still can't compete against the best teams in the conference, and Kevin Wilson's team will not be going to a bowl this season. They'll have to beat Purdue next week to finish 5-7.
One final note: Penn State conspiracy theorists would have a hard time explaining a call near the end of the first half, as Zwinak bobbled and fumbled the ball right at the goal line after catching a pass. Officials ruled it a touchdown on the field -- a key difference from last week's Matt Lehman fumble at the goal line -- and the play was upheld after an official review.