It would end up being Pat Devlin's greatest moment at Penn State.
But in some ways, when the quarterback came off the bench to lead the Nittany Lions past Ohio State, 13-6, on Oct. 25, it was the beginning of the end.
On Wednesday, Penn State announced that Devlin, the former high school all-American from Downingtown East, was transferring and that he would not play in the Rose Bowl.
Two days earlier, Devlin and his parents, Mark and Connie, met with Penn State coach Joe Paterno to discuss Pat's season as a backup to Daryll Clark and his seemingly cloudy future. The conversation did not go well, one source close to Paterno said, and by the end of the meeting Devlin was leaving.
The 6-foot-4, 222-pound sophomore has not publicly commented and has not responded to interview requests from The Inquirer. Messages left with his father were not returned yesterday.
As abrupt as his departure may have seemed, the impetus, according to a source close to Devlin, was the aftermath of the Ohio State game and specifically what occurred during the Iowa game two weeks later.
When Clark suffered a concussion in the fourth quarter against Ohio State, Devlin took over and led the trailing Lions to the winning touchdown when he plunged 1 yard into the end zone. Before leaving the game, Clark had struggled a bit, and Devlin felt as if his performance had cracked open the quarterback competition, the source said.
The Lions were idle the next week and Clark was cleared to play against the Hawkeyes on Nov. 8. Fearing the mobile junior could suffer another head injury, however, Penn State included the "Wildcat" formation in its game plan to alleviate some of the pressure on the QB.
In the formation, wide receiver Derrick Williams received direct snaps from center, but Clark had his worst game as Penn State suffered its first loss, 24-23, ending its national-title hopes.
A source close to Devlin said he could not understand why he wasn't inserted as Clark and the offense sputtered in the second half.
"Prior to that Iowa game, Pat was on cloud nine," said Mike Matta, Devlin's coach at Downingtown East. "It was easy to see that what happened really bummed him out."
When he lost the starter's job to Clark in August, Devlin admitted to thoughts of transferring. But after the Iowa game, his uncertainty snowballed. With Clark planning on returning next season, Devlin was looking at just one season as the starter.
The Devlins, concerned about how this would affect Pat Devlin's NFL stock, broached the subject during their meeting with Paterno, a team source said.
"It was all about the pros with them," the source said.
Paterno will meet with the media today in advance of the Rose Bowl. Devlin returned to Downingtown yesterday, Matta said.
"He seemed OK," said Matta, who spoke with Devlin yesterday. "I don't think he wants to go through the recruiting process again. I wouldn't be surprised if he just contacted the schools he was interested in on his own."
Matta said he had received approximately 20 calls from Division I-AA coaches. Because he would lose a year of eligibility by transferring to another Division I-A program, Devlin is bound for Division I-AA, Matta said. Delaware appears to be a perfect fit.
"We can't comment on potential transfers until he is enrolled in the school," Delaware spokesman Scott Selheimer said.
The Blue Hens have had success with Division I-A transfers, most notably Joe Flacco. A first-round NFL draft pick now starting for the Baltimore Ravens as a rookie, Flacco left Pittsburgh and had great success at Delaware.
The Blue Hens accepted another high-profile transfer last year in former Ohio State quarterback Robby Schoenhoft, but he struggled this season.
Villanova is probably not in the picture, a source close to that situation said.
Penn State, meanwhile, is shorthanded heading into its New Year's Day matchup against Southern California. Fifth-year senior Paul Cianciolo will be the backup, but Williams will be third on the depth chart, a team source said.