Penn State's Mauti: Man on a mission

Brian Bennett writes:

On July 25, Penn State seniors Michael Mauti and Michael Zordich gave a now-famous, impassioned speech about staying loyal to the program in the wake of harsh NCAA sanctions. Only later did it sink in for them what they'd done.

"A couple of days after that, I said to Zordich, 'Listen, we'd better win some games and back this up,'" Mauti told ESPN.com. "'Or else we're going to look like idiots.'"

That's no longer a concern. Not only has Penn State (3-2) won three straight games heading into this week's showdown against No. 24 Northwestern, but Mauti is looking like one of the best defensive players in America.

The fifth-year senior linebacker is tied for fourth in the Big Ten in tackles (48), tied for second in interceptions (2) and shares the league lead with two fumbles forced. He already has been named Big Ten defensive player of the week twice.

"If you were naming the Big Ten linebacker of the year right now, it would be Michael, no doubt," Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald said.

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