College football is a game of momentum, and one play in completely changed Northwestern's fortunes in the first half against Penn State.
As a result, a Wildcat team that was thoroughly outplayed in all phases for the first 22 minutes somehow took a 14-10 lead into the locker room at halftime.
Northwestern went three-and-out on its first four possessions of the game and trailed 10-0 halfway through the second quarter. But the Wildcats got their big break after Penn State returner Jesse Dalla Valle muffed Brandon Williams's fifth punt and it bounced into Nick VanHoose's hands at the Lion 18-yard line.
Venric Mark scored on a 2-yard run three plays later to cut PSU's lead to 10-7.
Suddenly, momentum was back on the Wildcats' slideline.
The Wildcats took the lead on their last possession of the half, taking over with 2:25 left. NU's Trevor Siemian found some rhythm in the passing game, completing five passes, the last of which was a leaping grab by Tony Jones in the back of the end zone for an 11-yard TD with :39 left to give the Wildcats an improbable lead.
The entire first quarter was a disaster for the Wildcats, who gained just 12 yards on six plays while Penn State ran 24 for 110.
By the time Zach Zwinak added a 1-yard touchdown run to push the Lions' lead to 10-0 with 9:45 left in the second quarter, Penn State enjoyed a 136-16 edge in yardage and Northwestern hadn't even registered a first down.
A short time later, VanHoose's recovery completely changed the game.
Siemian was 12-of-21 for 89 yards and a touchdown for Northwestern. Mark led the Wildcats with just 19 yards on seven carries.
Matt McGloin was 16-of-28 for 134 yards passing for Penn State.