Mauti injury mars Penn State's victory over Indiana
UNIVERSITY PARK — Gerald Hodges summed up what his coaches and teammates seemed to be thinking when asked about the injury that has almost certainly ended Michael Mauti's Penn State career and could cloud his NFL future.
“If I had a knee to give him, I would definitely give it to him without question,” Hodges said after Penn State beat Indiana, 45-22, at Beaver Stadium despite giving up 454 passing yards. “We just hope he regroups from it.”
Mauti suffered what appears to be his third season-ending knee injury at Penn State after Indiana running back D'Angelo Roberts tried to cut block him Saturday in the first quarter.
Mauti had to be taken off the field on a cart, and when the fifth-year senior returned to the Penn State sidelines on the fourth quarter he did so on crutches.
Coach Bill O'Brien said he is not ready to rule out Mauti playing in Penn State's regular-season finale next Saturday against Wisconsin until there is a diagnosis.
What is worrisome about the injury is that it occurred to the same knee in which Mauti tore his ACL last season.
“I'm not sure the extent of the injury, but it doesn't look that great right now,” said Mike Hull, who replaced Mauti in the lineup and turned in a career-high 11 tackles as well as a sack. “I feel so bad for him for everything that has happened.”
Mauti has torn the ACL in both knees. Sustaining the injury in his left knee for a second time in two years could end any chance of Mauti being selected during the first two days of the NFL Draft.
“Michael will definitely be in our thoughts and our prayers,” Penn State quarterback Matt McGloin said. “You can't replace a guy like Mike. He's a great friend, he's a great person and he's a great player and our leader. ”
NFL draft expert Mel Kiper Jr. said late week the only question about Mauti is his durability. And that was before his latest knee injury.
“If it wasn't for the knee injuries, then you'd probably be looking at a solid second-round pick, maybe even a late first,” Kiper said Wednesday.
Mauti entered Saturday's game as the Big Ten's sixth-leading tackler with 9.3 stops per game. He also was tied for third in the conference with three interceptions.
The 6-foot-2, 232-pounder became the face of Penn State football after NCAA sanctions threatened to bury the program in July. Mauti and other seniors helped O'Brien hold the program together.
“He was one of the guys who helped me to decide to stay, just talking with me every day, giving me confidence and telling me how much I meant to the football program,” said Hull, who considered transferring to Pitt before staying at Penn State.“I just can't believe it was him. He's such a great guy.”
O'Brien said he didn't know if the block that knocked Mauti out of the game was a dirty play.
Mauti likely won't get to run out of tunnel before next Saturday's 3:30 p.m. game, and his final send-off as a Penn State player probably came before he was carted off the field.
His coaches and teammates walked onto the field and applauded Mauti as a sign of respect.
“I've coached a Hall of Fame quarterback and Hall of Fame receivers and great players, and he's one of the most special players I've been around,” O'Brien said. “He embodies what Penn State is all about: tough, grind it out, smart. He's just a fantastic kid.”
Scott Brown is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.