Shazier’s best gamepays tribute to classmate

10/28/2012
BY DAVID BRIGGS
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — Ryan Shaz­ier ex­changed his usual No. 10 in honor of a late friend Satur­day.

Then he went out and played the best game of his ca­reer.

The soph­o­more line­backer be­lieves he had help in the Buck­eyes’ 35-23 vic­tory over Penn State.

Be­fore he made the back-to-back plays that turned the game, he slipped on a No. 48 jer­sey as a trib­ute to Gary Cur­tis, a for­mer class­mate and the man­ager of his foot­ball team in Plan­ta­tion, Fla. Cur­tis bat­tled mus­cu­lar dys­tro­phy and died this spring.

“He al­ways had the No. 48,” Shaz­ier said. “No mat­ter what, coaches al­ways had the num­ber for him. I was re­ally close to him. So I felt like wear­ing his num­ber this year was re­ally go­ing to be an honor. That’s him play­ing out there to­day.”

Some­thing was at work. With the game tied, Shaz­ier sacked quar­ter­back Matt McGloin on Penn State’s sec­ond play of the third quar­ter, then picked him off on the next and rum­bled 17 yards for the go-ahead touch­down.

“It felt amaz­ing be­cause it al­most felt like a dream,” he said. “I had dropped so many picks this year. When I caught the ball, it felt amaz­ing. It was a great mo­men­tum change.”

Shaz­ier, the Buck­eyes’ lead­ing tack­ler, ap­pears at last to be show­cas­ing the full po­ten­tial of a tal­ent Meyer be­lieves will de­velop into an all-con­fer­ence line­backer.

“He’s kind of an out-of-con­trol guy that misses tack­les and over­runs it,” Meyer said. “I thought last week was just beau­ti­ful the way he played. Shuf­fle, shuf­fle, and then he ac­cel­er­ated so quick. I think he’s play­ing his best foot­ball.”

And on Satur­day, he had help.

“I was think­ing about [Cur­tis] the whole game,” Shaz­ier said. “I felt like he was play­ing through me. He was tell­ing me what was go­ing on, he had my back.”

PACK THE HOUSE: A prime­time visit from Ohio State pro­vided just the elixir for the Nit­t­any Lions’ at­ten­dance strug­gles.

After swaths of empty seats greeted Penn State in the first four home games, the place rocked Satur­day. Stu­dents who had camped out since Mon­day rushed into the sta­dium two hours be­fore kick­off, and the 106,500-seat sta­dium did not stop fill­ing un­til 107,818 fans packed the stands.

The sex-abuse scan­dal and NCAA sanc­tions had taken a toll on ticket de­mand, with four of the eight small­est crowds since Beaver Sta­dium ex­panded in 2001. An av­er­age of 96,000 fans turned out for the home dates.

But as usual, OSU was a big-ticket draw. The Buck­eyes have been the op­po­nent for two of the four larg­est crowds in Beaver Sta­dium his­tory. The 110,134 that wit­nessed Ohio State’s 37-17 win over PSU on Oct. 27, 2007, trails only the 110,753 in at­ten­dance for Penn State’s 40-10 win over Ne­braska on Sept. 14, 2002.

KICKER WOES: Talk about hav­ing trust is­sues.

When Penn State faced fourth-and-7 at the Buck­eyes’ 20 in a score­less sec­ond quar­ter — and then fourth-and-12 af­ter a false start — coach Bill O’Brien left his kicker on the bench.

Not sur­pris­ingly, the PSU failed to con­vert the long­shot sce­nario. (Matt McGloin com­pleted an 8-yard pass.) But O’Brien clearly liked al­most any odds bet­ter than those of Chris Ficken nail­ing a mid-range field goal.

The Nit­t­any Lions’ kick­ing woes have been an en­dur­ing theme.

After in­cum­bent starter An­thony Fera trans­ferred to Texas and an­other kicker left the pro­gram, the soph­o­more Ficken re­mained the only op­tion. He missed 4 of 5 at­tempts and an ex­tra point in Penn State’s 17-16 Week 2 loss at Vir­ginia and was 3 for 9 on Satur­day.

Ficken made a 27-yard field goal at­tempt in the third quar­ter.

EXTRA POINTS: Another num­ber change: fresh­man line­backer David Perkins switched from No. 25 to No. 21 to avoid dou­bling up with tail­back Bri’onte Dunn on spe­cial teams. … Se­nior cor­ner­back Zach Domi­cone, a starter on the kick cov­er­age unit, missed the trip with a leg in­jury suf­fered dur­ing prac­tice Thurs­day. … Penn State re­turned a blocked punt for a touch­down for the first time since a 2010 win over In­di­ana.