Penn State right tackle Andrew Nelson lost his battle up front and was crumpled backwards as another burly lineman fell on his leg.
It bent backward, and by the time the members of the pile had gotten to their feet, Nelson lay on his back in clear agony, slapping the grass with his palms as trainers rushed to his side.
The first-half injury ended with the redshirt junior getting carted off of the field — but not before half of the sideline cleared to wish him well and offer a few light taps on the shoulder or helmet.
Head coach James Franklin said after the game that the team had likely lost Nelson for the rest of the season.
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“We will find out more, but we’re pretty confident in that so it doesn’t make sense for me to wait until Tuesday,” said Franklin. “We’ve had a rash of these types of injuries.
“I feel for Nelly. Love that kid. But we’ll be with him every step of the way.”
Left tackle Brendan Mahon, who shifted to the right when Nelson went down, was visibly upset after the game at the injury suffered by his close friend and teammate.
I’ve never met someone who has given so much to the game of football as him. Extra, um, after practice and in the film room…He gives everything. To see something like that, my brother and one of my best friends go down like that, it rips at your heart.
Penn State tackle Brendan Mahon, on Andrew Nelson’s injury
“Andrew is the kind of guy, I’ve known him since sophomore year when we were at camp up here together and junior year we committed together, so that’s six or seven years we’ve known each other,” wavered Mahon. “I’ve never met someone who has given so much to the game of football as him. Extra, um, after practice and in the film room … he gives everything. To see something like that, my brother and one of my best friends go down like that, it rips at your heart.”
Backup Paris Palmer came in at left tackle to fill in the hole on the line, as Mahon shifted over to the right side.
But in a positive swing rarely seen for this group of offensive linemen, Penn State racked up 372 rushing yards in the 38-14 win against Maryland, including 200 yards from running back Saquon Barkley after he had been held below 100 in the last few games.
Barkley said after the game that he approached the offensive line unit with the rushing total after the game.
“I told them, ‘That’s all you guys,’” he said.
“I think we are progressing really nicely and taking steps,” said Mahon. “Instead of five individuals, we are five guys playing as one.”
More injury notes
Freshman punter Blake Gillikin was blocked early in the game, then faltered on a 29-yarder that was rare for the young standout specialist. Franklin said Gillikin was a little banged up from an incident in practice.
“He had an injury this week during practice and he thought he could tough through it,” said Franklin. “Wasn’t hitting the ball the way he’s capable of. Danny Pasquariello came in and was huge for us. We hadn’t had that type of depth in the past.”
The Nittany Lions did get receiver Saeed Blacknall and corner Malik Golden back this week, but are still suffering from a slew of injuries.
At linebacker, sophomore Jake Cooper is inactive with an unspecified injury. Starters Jason Cabinda and Brandon Bell are still out, and starter Nyeem Wartman-White is out for the season, as is backup Jan Johnson. Defensive backs Christian Campbell and Amani Oruwariye also were inactive on Saturday.
“We have great momentum going into the bye week,” said Franklin. “We need this time off. Some of our injuries are not going to heal in a week but some will.”
Julius takes cheap-shot again
For the second week in a row, kickoff man Joe Julius was hit by a player after a kick that resulted in a dead ball. This week, it was Maryland’s Isaiah Davis who pinwheeled Julius after the kick sailed out of bounds and the officials whistled the play dead.
In both weeks, the player in question was ejected.
Penn State’s 258-pound kicker has become a social media celebrity after his big, highlight-reel hits on special teams. After a hit on Michigan’s Jourdan Lewis went viral, opponents started keying in on the kicker.