STATE COLLEGE, Pa. - The sight of Michael Mauti lying in pain on the green grass of Beaver Stadium clutching his left knee brought the crowd of more than 90,000 people to stunned silence.
But as sad as they were to see Penn State's linebacker and inspirational leader down, they knew that Mauti's teammates felt worse. Gerald Hodges and Jordan Hill went over to console him, as did coach Bill O'Brien. As a cart carrying Mauti drove away, Michael Zordich ran up and high-fived his buddy.
The distraught Nittany Lions could have called it a day emotionally, especially with more than three quarters left to play against Indiana. But they steadied themselves, got career games from Matt McGloin and Allen Robinson, and won one for Mauti, 45-22, over the Hoosiers.
McGloin threw for a career-high 395 yards and four touchdowns, setting five season and career school records in the process. Robinson, the talented 6-foot-3 sophomore wide receiver, caught 10 balls for 197 yards and three scores, and became Penn State's all-time season-season leader for receptions with 73.
However, all thoughts after the game were with Mauti. O'Brien said he did not have an injury report on the 232-pound, fifth-year senior, who underwent surgery for a torn anterior cruciate ligament in the same knee during the 2011 season.
But it didn't look good. On a Hoosiers running play, Mauti was engaged with Indiana center Collin Rahrig when running back D'Angelo Roberts hit him low directly on the knee. It's the definition of a chop block, which the officials didn't call, and O'Brien chose not to react.
"I have no idea what happened on the play," he said.
Hodges, the former Paulsboro High star who said he "loves [Mauti] like a brother," said the defense for the Nittany Lions (7-4, 5-2 Big Ten) did a good job rallying around Mauti and picking each other up.
"It was great," the senior said. "The guys stepped up when they needed to step up and that's what the coach said. He said that we need guys to start playing a bigger role than what we had been playing and that's what guys went out there and did."
O'Brien also liked the response against the Hoosiers (4-7, 2-5).
"This team's a bunch of resilient guys," he said. "When a guy who's a leader on your football team goes down in a game, I think it was a good response. We have a bunch of veterans on defense . . . that have played a lot of football. They did what they had to do, and I think we got the offense going there around the second quarter."
They did. McGloin threw scoring passes of 26, 53 and 10 yards to Robinson, all in the first half, and added a 16-yard TD toss to tailback Zach Zwinak. Zwinak, who rushed for 135 yards in 29 carries, and Zordich each contributed short touchdown bursts.
McGloin established a single-season school record for most passing yards, raising his total to 3,071 to break Daryll Clark's mark of 3,003 set in 2009. His four touchdowns gave him a career total of 45, two more than Clark's previous record of 43.
McGloin, a former walk-on, said it was a "great honor" and he was "truly blessed" to be ranked with the top Lions quarterbacks. He praised Robinson for his work against the overmatched Hoosiers secondary.
"There's no doubt he's our best playmaker," McGloin said. "As a quarterback, you have to get him the ball. You have to put the ball in his hands, let him make plays. He played one of the best games of his career today."
The Penn State defense was staggered early in the third quarter after Indiana threw a 79-yard touchdown pass, recovered the ensuing onside kick and intercepted McGloin. But the Hoosiers just managed a field goal after the long TD.
Mauti's injury will make next week's Senior Day finale against Wisconsin that much more emotional because of all he has meant to the team during this difficult year.
"He embodies, in my opinion, what Penn State's all about," O'Brien said. "He's tough, grind-it-out, smart. He's just a fantastic kid."