CHAMPAIGN, Ill. – When Illinois coaches were criticized for setting up shop near Penn States campus last summer to see whether any Nittany Lions were interested in transferring, linebacker Michael Mauti was their most vocal critic.
The Illini were hardly the only team looking, but Mauti singled out Illinois, saying he had a problem with anyone who would steal the Nittany Lions players in the wake of Penn States child-sex scandal and NCAA sanctions.
On Saturday, the senior linebacker backed up that talk with six tackles and a pair of game-changing interceptions that Penn State (3-2) turned into a 35-7 road win to open Big Ten play.
It was sweet, thats what it was, Mauti said. We havent forgotten about what happened in the summer. Yeah, to be honest with you we had that in the back of our minds and that kept us going. I mean, its all about opening up the conference strong and keeping things going.
The Nittany Lions started the season in what by now is a familiar story of turmoil, uncertain where their offense would come from after the post-sanctions transfers of quarterback Rob Bolden and Silas Redd. Now theyve won three straight and Boldens replacement, Matt McGloin, has become one of the Big Tens better quarterbacks.
McGloin threw for 211 yards and a touchdown and ran for two more scores, and running back Zach Zwinak had 101 yards and two touchdowns. Penn State coach Bill OBrien credited his offensive line.
Mautis second interception came near midfield late in the third quarter as Illini quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase tried to rally the Illini. Mautis pick instead set up a 1-yard touchdown run by Zach Zwinak with 14:03 left in the game that sealed the win.
Zwinak finished with 101 yards and two TDs.
Illinois quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase finished with 270 passing yards, going 28 of 46. Ryan Lankford had seven catches for a game-high 104 yards.
We didnt play the way we wanted to, but theres still a lot of football left and the damage thats been done isnt season-ending at all, Scheelhaase said.
The hard feelings between the teams were sometimes clear.
Players exchanged words as they crossed paths on the way to the locker rooms at halftime and had to be separated by officials and staff members from each team.
Illinois safety Earnest Thomas was also ejected after a hard helmet-to-helmet hit in the second quarter.
IOWA 31, MINNESOTA 13: In Iowa City, Iowa, Mark Weisman ran for 177 yards, 155 in the first half, to give the Hawkeyes possession of the Floyd of Rosedale bronze pig trophy.
Christian Kirkseys 68-yard interception return for a touchdown in the fourth quarter sealed the win for Iowa (3-2), which bounced back from last weeks disappointing 32-31 loss to Central Michigan to win the Big Ten opener for both schools.
Minnesota (4-1) was off to its best start since 2008, but couldnt get anything going on offense Saturday. Max Shortell threw three interceptions and the Gophers managed only 75 yards in the first half.
The Hawkeyes scored three touchdowns during a six-minute span of the second quarter to jump out to a 24-0 halftime lead.