The sight of No. 42 plowing into ball carriers on Saturday was a familiar one for fans in Beaver Stadium, even if the player who wore that jersey against Wisconsin was someone else.
Michael Mauti said he felt honored to have Gerald Hodges wear his jersey number on Saturday.
The Nittany Lions paid tribute to injured senior linebacker and defensive co-captain Michael Mauti during their 24-21 overtime defeat of the Badgers in Beaver Stadium. Every player wore Mauti's 42 on the left side of his helmet and fellow senior Gerald Hodges traded his usual No. 6 jersey for Mauti's No. 42.
Penn State coach Bill O'Brien said Hodges asked him after the Indiana game, when Mauti suffered a left knee injury that the team has yet to fully specify. All that was left was to run the idea by Mauti.
"He told me last night at the hotel," said Mauti, who rooms with Hodges on game weeks. "Me and Gerald are very close. I had nothing to say but just started tearing up. It's such a big sign of respect and such an honor, especially with a player like that. I just can't say enough about him."
The team's seniors asked O'Brien about wearing the numbers on the helmets. Equipment manager Brad "Spider" Caldwell was able to quickly affix each helmet with blue stickers.
"It just shows you what Michael Mauti meant to this team and this football program," O'Brien said.
Mauti said he didn't know about the helmets until he walked into the locker room Saturday morning and was a bit taken aback, then humbled.
"My first thought was, 'Well, I'm not dead,'" he said. "I understand that. I also understand how much of an honor it is to be recognized like that. I'm trying not to get emotional right now. It's just an honor to be a part of this team and a part of this class. It's been unbelievable. And what a way to end it."
Beaver Stadium held its collective breath when Jordan Hill was slow to get up after a tackle in the second quarter. The senior defensive tackle had been slowed by a knee injury in recent weeks.
"I just banged my knee up a little bit again," Hill said. "Just got a couple of sharp pains in it. I wasn't letting sharp pains keep me out of the game."
Instead, Hill was a sharp and consistent pain for the Badgers' offensive line. He made 12 tackles, including three for loss and two sacks, several of them down the stretch.
Hill had a big hand in helping hold Wisconsin's offense, which scored touchdowns on its first two possessions, to just 222 yards and seven points the rest of the way. In the process, Hill and his fellow seniors went out as winners in their final game.
"It means the world," he said. "For our whole senior class and for this 2012 team."
It isn't every day you see a running back, or any football player, get hit with cramps in both legs.
It isn't every day you see a college player carry the ball 36 times, either.
"I went for a little extra push and I guess they were done," Zwinak said. "Thirty-six carries is a lot. I wasn't really ready for that."
That 6-yard carry also capped yet another career day -- 179 yards and a touchdown on those 36 carries -- and put Zwinak at exactly 1,000 yards on the season.
"Zach has really played well for us the last 6-7 weeks of the season," O'Brien said. "We go with the hot back. There's nothing wrong with any other back. You rush for 180 yards against Wisconsin's defense and you're doing something good."
Zwinak said he knew he had a shot at the 1,000-yard milestone a couple of weeks ago but figured it would take some doing to reach it Saturday against a tough Badger defense.
"Today I knew I needed a lot of yards to get it," he said. "I'm just happy I got the chance to reach that goal, but it's just all about the seniors today."
Ficken had connected on his last nine field goals by the time Penn State and Wisconsin went to overtime Saturday, but none in high-pressure situations. Put in a big spot for the first time since the Virginia game, the sophomore placekicker delivered, nailing a 37-yard field goal and fulfilling a long-held dream in the process.
"I love touchdowns, but when you have that opportunity as a kicker, that's your dream," Ficken said. "That's what you want when you go out on the field every time. You want that game-winner."
Ficken finished the season 14-of-21 on field goals after a 2-of-8 start, including four misses in the 17-16 loss at Virginia.
"I can't be prouder of Sam Ficken," O'Brien said. "To think of where he came from to making that winning kick ... I can't say enough about him and the way he rallied tonight."
Miscellaneous: Sophomore wide receiver Allen Robinson had four catches for 35 yards Saturday and finished the season with 1,013 receiving yards. He is the first Penn State player to top 1,000 yards receiving since Bobby Engram did it in 1994 and 1995. … Matt McGloin's 41-yard touchdown pass to Jesse James was his 24th of the season, tying the Penn State season mark for touchdown passes of 24, set by Daryll Clark in 2009. … Sophomore cornerback Adrian Amos was shaken up on the play that resulted in Jacob Fagnano's fourth-quarter interception and replaced in the lineup by both freshman Jordan Lucas and Jesse Della Valle the rest of the way. … Junior Ty Howle made his first career start for Penn State at left guard. … Announced attendance Saturday was 93,505.
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