MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Penn State quarterback Matt McGloin was furious — not when he spiked the ball, but after being penalized for doing so.
With the Nittany Lions already trailing 14-7 early in the second quarter of Saturday’s game at Wisconsin, tight end Andrew Szczerba was penalized for a false start. McGloin spiked the ball, then was shocked when officials called a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on him to back the Nittany Lions up a total of 20 yards.
McGloin thought the penalty was absurd, saying he spiked the ball not out of frustration but because he didn’t want defenders to think the play was still going and get a free shot on him.
“I’ve been doing that for two years now,” McGloin said. “It’s a ridiculous call to make in a situation like that. I’m not going to stand there with the ball in case the defender doesn’t hear (the whistle) and ends up clocking me. I just stepped back and spiked the ball. It was an incomplete pass. Like I said, I’ve been doing that for two years and somehow that’s an unsportsmanlike call.”
The play was typical of Penn State’s performance in Saturday’s 45-7 blowout loss to Wisconsin — a mistake piled on top of another mistake.
“You don’t want to get caught and have a guy come lay you out,” Penn State assistant coach Jay Paterno said. “So you spike the ball just like you would in a two-minute situation and the guy said he spiked it because he was angry. It’s a judgment call and that’s how they judged it. It was a big one but we’ve got to overcome those things.”
Turnovers, penalties and missed tackles cost the Nittany Lions any hope of hanging with Wisconsin, and any chance of salvaging a season dwarfed by scandal with a spot in the Big Ten title game for a shot at the Rose Bowl.
Penn State’s program has been in turmoil for weeks in the wake of child sexual abuse charges against former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky, which led to the firing of longtime coach Joe Paterno.
Players didn’t think the team hit some sort of emotional wall in Saturday’s game.
“I don’t think so,” McGloin said. “It was just one of those days mistakes killed us. Unfortunately it was against a team like Wisconsin where if you make mistakes like that you’re going to lose.”
But Jay Paterno acknowledged that the Nittany Lions couldn’t seem to sustain their energy.
“I thought the energy was good early on but I’m sure it’s been pretty rough for a couple of weeks for these guys,” Paterno said.
The Nittany Lions came into the game knowing they didn’t want to get caught up in a shootout with a high-octane Badgers offense led by running back Montee Ball and quarterback Russell Wilson. Penn State would have to rely on its defense, which came into Saturday’s game giving up a Big Ten-best 13 points per game.
But after stopping the Badgers on their first possession of the game, then scoring on a 44-yard touchdown pass from McGloin to Curtis Drake, things quickly fell apart for Penn State.
Penn State gave up a 10-play, 76-yard drive that allowed Wisconsin to tie the game on a 21-yard pass from Wilson to Jared Abbrederis. The Nittany Lions got good field position when a kickoff went out of bounds, but McGloin immediately threw an interception to safety Shelton Johnson at midfield.
“I just didn’t get the ball up high enough,” McGloin said. “The kid jumped up as high as he could to get it. It was a mistake. It wasn’t a bad ball. It was just a bad read.”
The Badgers marched for a 1-yard touchdown by Ball to take the lead.
“That’s probably the best feeling on defense, getting a turnover and to let the offense score — that’s the one thing that you love the most,” Wisconsin linebacker Mike Taylor said. “It just puts points on the board and helps you win.”
Later in the second quarter, a horse-collar tackle by Penn State linebacker Gerald Hodges earned a 15-yard penalty and helped Wisconsin march for another touchdown by Ball to take a 21-7 lead.
Then Penn State’s Michael Zordich fumbled the ensuing kickoff, allowing Wisconsin to put together one more scoring drive to take a 28-7 lead into halftime.
“You learn a lot about yourself in that locker room, (what) you have to say to those players after the game,” Penn State interim coach Tom Bradley said. “Obviously we didn’t play a very good football game (Saturday). One of the key ingredients was the turnovers. We can’t turn the ball over against that team, we had four of them today. Crucial times, crucial situations. I told them to keep their heads high, keep working at it and we’ll get back to work.”
(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)