Penn State honors 2012 team
UNIVERSITY PARK — Penn State immortalized its 2012 team before the start of its regular-season finale.
The players who helped hold the football program together during its darkest hour delivered the kind of signature win that also assures they will not be forgotten.
Penn State overcame a seven-point halftime deficit to beat Wisconsin, 24-21, and cap a celebratory day at Beaver Stadium.
Penn State honored the team that played its final game Saturday at Beaver Stadium by unveiling “2012” on the school's ring of honor. The number sits alongside those representing teams from 1982, 1986 and 1994 among others along a concrete strip on the stadium luxury boxes.
“It would have been terrible not to win the game after that pregame ceremony,” coach Bill O'Brien said. “I think there was a lot riding on the game for these players.”
Penn State honored this year's players for sticking together after the NCAA levied crippling sanctions against the football program in the aftermath of the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal.
Penn State's seniors also were honored before the game, and outside linebacker Michael Mauti made an inspirational run out of the tunnel that called to mind Adam Taliaferro's entrance before the 2001 season opener.
Taliaferro battled from a spinal injury that had left him paralyzed to make the most unforgettable entrance in Beaver Stadium history.
Mauti's won't rank far behind.
The heart and soul of the Nittany Lions did not play against Wisconsin after sustaining a knee injury the previous week, but he jogged out of the tunnel as the student section chanted “Michael Mauti.”
“I'm so proud to be a part of this team,” Mauti said. “It really is a storybook ending for us. Not a perfect season as far as wins and losses but so special to be a part of.”
Outside linebacker Gerald Hodges wore No. 42 in honor of Mauti. Seniors such as running back Mike Zordich and defensive tackle Jordan Hill successfully petitioned O'Brien to have longtime equipment manager Brad “Spider” Caldwell put Mauti's number on every Penn State helmet.
“If there's a number that belongs on that helmet, that's the one,” Zordich said. “There's not too many guys that play the game with such a passion and mean as much as they do to the guys they are playing with. Leader is an understatement for him.”
Mauti didn't know his number would be on the helmets until Saturday.
“It was very emotional for me,” said Mauti, who declined to discuss the severity of his knee injury. “I'm not dead, but at the same time I couldn't be more honored.”
Mauti, Hill, Zordich, quarterback Matt McGloin and linebacker Mike Yancich were named captains for the 2012 season.
Yancich, a Trinity graduate, represented the special teams.
Scott Brown is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.