Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Mauti Backs Up Words with Deeds Star Linebacker Sparks Nittany Lions to Lopsided Victory in Big Ten Opener Penn State 35, Illinois 7

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Mauti Backs Up Words with Deeds Star Linebacker Sparks Nittany Lions to Lopsided Victory in Big Ten Opener Penn State 35, Illinois 7

Article excerpt

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- Michael Mauti made it to the 1. He sprinted and followed blockers well enough to forge a 99-yard run reminiscent of a return you may have thought only the Steelers' James Harrison could offer.

Mauti made peace. At the end of the first half, players from both sides taunted each other, and he said he entered the fray to put an end to it.

Mauti made sense. After doing everything imaginable in Penn State's 35-7 victory against Illinois Saturday, he provided the obvious context. Nobody wanted to admit on the record that this game mattered more than any of the other 11 on the schedule. The Big Ten opener always counts, they said. Whatever.

"I'll give you a little something," Mauti said. "Having to play against these guys, it was sweet. That's really what it was. We haven't forgotten what happened in the summer."

Judging by the stories hatched by his teammates, one could assume Mauti spent this past week willingly displaced in some type of Soviet-style bunker, plotting and stewing for revenge because of the Illini's summer recruiting trip. Cornerback Stephon Morris couldn't believe his teammate's intensity.

He heard noises emanating from the locker room before kickoff, noises he could describe only as lockers pounding. Mauti was banging his helmeted-head.

"He was a crazy man," Morris said.

Mauti denied that such a thing happened, though, as per the usual, the linebacker underplayed much of his contributions -- two interceptions and a forced fumble.

For the season, Mauti leads Penn State (3-2, 1-0) in turnovers, having totaled two interceptions, two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery. Morris credited the ability to force turnovers to Mauti's football intelligence.

He paused for a moment, considering other reasons for Mauti's skill in this category before saying, "He's also Michael Mauti."

For offensive lineman John Urschel, Mauti is the guy who appears to float when everyone else stays grounded.

"You look at him, he's running around making plays, jumping around just everywhere for four quarters," Urschel said. …

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