Penn State running back Bill Belton (1) beats his chest after scoring the game-winning touchdown on a two-yard run in the fourth overtime to cap a 43-40 victory over previously undefeated Michigan. (John T. Greilick / Detroit News)
State College, Pa. — Just after Penn State scored the winning touchdown to beat Michigan, coach Bill O’Brien sprinted down the field, arms raised, toward the sea of white in the south end zone.
There, his team assembled in front of the adoring, screaming fans as the Blue Band prepared to play the alma mater so players and fans alike could sing along.
It is scenes like that, in front of a sold-out crowd of 107,844, that O’Brien hopes motivates blue-chip recruits to commit to Penn State.
“I’m not allowed to talk too much specifically about recruiting. I’ll tell you what I say. If you come to Penn State, you have a chance to play in front of 108,000 fans, you’re going to be on TV every week and you’re going to get a fantastic education,” he said.
“We have 150 different majors to choose from here, you graduate from here, playing football, with a degree from Penn State. It’s really an unbeatable combination. Hopefully, things worked out in that realm, too.”
As O’Brien addressed the assembled media after Penn State’s 43-40 four-overtime win over Michigan on Saturday, above him the recruiting lounge was full with more than 100 potential recruits and their families.
Surely they were impressed not only with the scintillating win but also with a Nittany Lion team that proved its doubters wrong. On the heels of a deflating loss to Indiana the week before, Penn State was searching for all the motivation it could muster. It came from several different sources.
Primary on the list was the first-ever loss to the Hoosiers.
“We wanted to play our best football this week. We were mad,” tight end Jesse James said. “We worked hard and we had a good week of practice. It showed out on the field today.”
The defense, too, thought it had something to prove after allowing Indiana to roll up 44 points.
“Indiana was a game we shouldn’t have lost. We made dumb mistakes in that game,” defensive tackle DaQuan Jones said. “We wanted to come out and redeem ourselves. We felt like no one respected our defense and even our offense. We wanted to come out here and give it everything we had.”
So, still smarting from the sting of a loss they felt shouldn’t have happened, the Nittany Lions went back to work to prepare for an undefeated Michigan team.
“We were really down on ourselves after that loss. We really needed this win to get us going through the season,” inside linebacker Glenn Carson said. “Everyone just pulled through.”
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