Mauti injury hits Penn State hard at season's end
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) — Surrounded by microphones and recorders, Penn State defensive coordinator Ted Roof stared into the distance as if in a daze. Tears welled up in Roof's eyes when the subject turned to injured senior Michael Mauti.
The fiery Mauti is so much more than a linebacker to the Nittany Lions (7-4, 5-2).
"He means so much to me, personally," Roof said in a soft voice. "From Day 1 ... our relationship has gotten nothing but stronger, stronger and stronger. I totally trust him."
Coach Bill O'Brien didn't have more details on the injury after Mauti was carted off the field late in the first quarter of Saturday's 45-22 win over Indiana. Mauti was being blocked by an offensive lineman when it appeared that Hoosiers running back D'Angelo Roberts went low and hit Mauti's left knee.
Beaver Stadium grew silent. O'Brien, Roof and another standout outside linebacker, Gerald Hodges, were among the Nittany Lions to come to Mauti's side. The 6-foot-2, 232-pound Mauti was slowly and carefully loaded on to a cart that quickly came on to the field to pick up the fallen leader.
"Michael Mauti! Michael Mauti!" the student section yelled in unison after Mauti returned to the sideline in the fourth quarter walking with crutches while the team gathered to sing the alma mater.
Serious injuries cut off two seasons earlier in his career — one to each knee. O' Brien got testy at one point after being asked if Mauti has played his last down in a blue-and-white uniform.
A team spokesman said Sunday there was no new information on Mauti. An injury report is usually released by Tuesday.
There's just one game left this year for Mauti , running back Michael Zordich and the other seniors who helped keep most of the team together after the NCAA's landmark sanctions in the offseason. Wisconsin visits next weekend.
"All I can say is, in your career, I've been fortunate to be around some special players," O'Brien said. "There's a bunch of special players in that (senior) class. He embodies, in my opinion, what Penn State's all about: he's tough, grind it out, smart."
By the tears flowing down the eyes of Mauti's mother during the singing of the alma mater, to the heartfelt messages of support from teammates on Twitter — it's clear those close to Mauti fear he may not return for what's already expected to be an emotional season finale against the Badgers.
"I'm praying for my boy Mike Mauti, and y'all do the same," redshirt freshman defensive end Deion Barnes posted on Twitter after the game. "One of the best players (I have) ever seen play the game."
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