Plenty of heroes in Penn State's remarkable win

Nittany Lions coach Bill O'Brien high-fives students in the Beaver Stadium whiteout crowd after the team's four-overtime, 43-40 win over Michigan.
Nittany Lions coach Bill O'Brien high-fives students in the Beaver Stadium whiteout crowd after the team's four-overtime, 43-40 win over Michigan. (GENE J. PUSKAR / Associated Press)
Posted: October 15, 2013

It was the type of game that Penn State fans will talk about for years. Perhaps a million of them will say they were among the 107,884 at Beaver Stadium on a gorgeous mid-October "whiteout" night in Happy Valley.

But those are the long-range effects of the Nittany Lions' thrilling, four-overtime, 43-40 victory over 18th-ranked Michigan on Saturday night. The short-range effects were that the Lions could tell the college football world that even with their shortened roster and some inconsistent play at times, they have the heart and moxie to keep fighting their way out of tough spots.

Their 80-yard touchdown drive, without the benefit of a timeout, in the final minute of regulation to tie the game was proof of that. The ups and downs of four overtime periods, when the Nittany Lions blocked the first potential winning field goal by Michigan and saw a second one go wide, were more proof.

"Our players don't say, 'Oh, my God, we're going to lose now,' " Penn State coach Bill O'Brien said. "They say, 'Oh, we have an opportunity to go out there and try to stop them.' That's the definition of resiliency."

The resilient players came from everywhere.

No matter what true freshman quarterback Christian Hackenberg does the rest of his career at Penn State, he will be remembered for piloting the clutch drive from Penn State's 20 with no timeouts remaining. He had 50 seconds to take his team into the end zone; he needed just 23.

On the same drive, Allen Robinson, who most likely will be seen catching passes in the NFL next season, gave the white-clad fans something to remember with his leaping catch of a 36-yard pass at the 1.

Bill Belton, the former Winslow Township High star who has "grown up a lot on the field and off the field," according to O'Brien, slashed for enough yards on fourth down in the fourth overtime period to keep the game from ending in Michigan's favor, and later scored the winning TD.

Belton finished with 33 touches - a career-high 27 carries and six receptions - and played almost all of the second half and overtime after replacing Zach Zwinak, who was lifted following a fumble that was returned by the Wolverines defense.

"It's whatever the game calls for, whether it's me or Zach or us rotating," Belton said. "I think we both do a good job with that. Being in there a majority of the time allows you to get in a rhythm. I enjoyed playing the game today."

The defense also proved to be a hardy bunch. Tackle Daquan Jones had two tackles for loss and recovered a fumble. End C.J. Olaniyan had 21/2 sacks. End Anthony Zettel picked off a pass. And tackle Kyle Baublitz came up with the big block of Brendan Gibbons' 40-yard field-goal attempt in the first OT.

"Indiana was a game we shouldn't have lost," Jones said of the game the previous weekend. "We made dumb mistakes in that game and we wanted to come out and redeem ourselves."


jjuliano@phillynews.com

@joejulesinq

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