UNIVERSITY PARK - Penn State lost big on Saturday, not on the scoreboard, but in the grand scheme of the season.
A 34-6 shellacking of an overmatched Eastern Michigan team didn't mean anywhere near as much to the Nittany Lion players as the health and well-being of two injured teammates who are respected friends, leaders and defensive standouts.
"Football aside, you just feel bad for Mauti and D'Anton because injuries suck, and that's the bottom line," safety Drew Astorino said.
Junior linebacker Michael Mauti, an All-America candidate who just last week had a huge interception that helped the Lions rally past Temple, was lost for the season with an ACL injury in his left knee. His fluke injury didn't appear to be serious initially - he walked off on his own power - but turned out to be severe.
"As well as he's playing, as hard as he's worked, as good as he's gotten to be, that's a tough loss for our team," defensive coordinator Tom Bradley said.
Senior cornerback D'Anton Lynn's head/neck injury looked downright scary and had everyone at Beaver Stadium worried as he lay on the field for a few minutes before being immobilized on a stretcher and carted off.
Lynn avoided serious injury as he had feeling in all his extremities. He was released from Mount Nittany Medical Center early Saturday evening after having his neck and spinal column examined, a university spokesman said.
"When he went down, I kind of got the chills at first," said quarterback Matt McGloin, a roommate of Lynn's. "But then I thought, 'It's D'Anton, he'll be OK.'"
Lynn suffered a stinger and felt burning sensations in his arms, Bradley said. It's unclear how much time he will have to miss, but there was no mention by anyone of it possibly being a season-ending injury.
"First and foremost, he's one of our really good friends, and then he's our teammate," Astorino said of Lynn. "So I'm just hoping everything's OK."
"I feel sorry for the kids," Joe Paterno said of his injured players. "They've both worked awfully hard. It kind of takes a little bit off the win, but that's the way it goes."
Penn State controlled the game throughout, leading 17-0 at the half against an outmanned Eastern Michigan squad that came in as a 28 1/2-point underdog.
McGloin had a superb day in his backup quarterback role to lead the Lions, outplaying starter Rob Bolden for the second straight week. McGloin completed his first eight passes and finished 14-of-17 for 220 yards with three touchdowns.
"I would like to have been 17-for-17," McGloin said with a laugh when asked if that's about as well as he can play. "I think that would have been as best as I can play. But no, it was definitely a good day overall for the offense."
Bolden had a decent day, completing 7-of-13 passes for 115 yards with one interception. He also threw a 5-yard screen pass to Devon Smith that turned into a 71-yard TD as the receiver broke loose up the right sideline and got a key block downfield from receiver Derek Moye.
McGloin led three TD drives, throwing two scoring strikes to Moye and one to Joe Suhey. The 27-yarder to Suhey in the second quarter was PSU's first TD pass of the season. The Lions had been one of only three teams in the nation not to have thrown a touchdown through the first three weeks.
McGloin nearly had a fourth touchdown, but fullback Michael Zordich caught a pass and fumbled the ball out of bounds in the end zone for a turnover in the second quarter.
Bolden led one TD drive and had another possible one stall when left tackle Quinn Barham was flagged for a false start on third-and-1 at the EMU 9 in the first quarter. Penn State had to settle for an Anthony Fera field goal and 3-0 lead, then McGloin came on for two second-quarter touchdowns.
Mauti suffered a strange and unfortunate injury late in the first quarter pursuing a tackle.
"He just went and when the ball cut back, something happened to his knee and he just fell over," said Nate Stupar, who replaced his friend at linebacker. "I was like, oh, maybe it's an ankle or something, but apparently it's worse."
It didn't look all that serious at the time because Mauti was able to get up and gingerly walk off the field. The oft-injured linebacker's bad luck continued as he soon found out it was an ACL.
Mauti missed the entire 2009 season after tearing the ACL in his right knee during preseason practice. Now he'll have to undergo the same rehab in his other knee in hopes of returning for his senior season in 2012.
"Any time something like that happens to a player of that magnitude, it's something bad, something tragic," said defensive tackle Devon Still, who has overcome several injuries himself to become a standout as a senior.
"I don't think that you can ever fill that type of fire that Mauti had," Still added.
Lynn's injury occurred in the closing minutes of the third quarter as he tried to make a head-first tackle on a pass play.
"He did have his head down," Bradley said of the tackle. "He had the crown of his helmet down when he hit into the guy."
Lynn initially tried to help himself up with his arms before falling back to the ground. The medical staff treated him quickly, cutting off his face mask and immobilizing him on the stretcher as the defense and Bradley stood nearby on the field.
"It brings back some bad memories," said Bradley, referring to PSU's Adam Taliaferro suffering a spinal cord injury in 2001. "He was just breathing so heavy, I got nervous. And I guess you would be too if they put you on a board and wrapped you up and cut your mask off."
As the cart drove Lynn off the field, it made a sharp turn and a member of the medical staff fell off, but he was OK.
"I feel for him, but I heard he's going to be able to make a full recovery and be able to be back," Moye said of Lynn. "So I'm hoping for him, praying for him, and I'm hoping we can move forward with him."
Seeing not one, but two of their team leaders go down was tough to watch for the players, but they also still had a lot of game left to play.
"I huddled them up, I said, 'Let's get to work,'" Bradley said. "There's not that much we can do about [the injuries]. We talked about it after the game: 'If you want to be a good football team, guys have got to step up.'"