It should’ve been over.
With the clock winding down towards zero and Penn State needing only a draw to secure a share of the Big Ten regular season title, sophomore Mike Roberge shouldn’t have been able to slip into the box. Freshman Elo Ozumba shouldn’t have been able to find him with a perfect pass. And Roberge certainly shouldn’t have been able to fake out two defenders and fire a shot past the outstretched arms of Nittany Lion goalkeeper Andrew Wolverton.
Everything about No. 20 Northwestern’s 2-1 victory over No. 18 Penn State on Sunday afternoon was improbable. But the Wildcats will take it.
“If they had [tied] they would have gotten a share of the championship and they would have jumped around and celebrated on our field,” head coach Tim Lenahan said. “It was going to come down to one play.”
That play came after a back and forth battle in which neither team was able to secure the knockout blow.
The ‘Cats got off to a quick start thanks to senior Eric Weberman, who fired a booming strike from 14 yards out to give Northwestern an early 1-0 lead. It was Weberman’s second goal of the season, but it wouldn’t keep the ‘Cats on top for long.
Penn State earned a penalty kick after a foul committed by senior Peter Beasley midway through the first half, giving the Nittany Lions a chance to get on the board. After blocking the initial penalty kick and ensuing deflection, senior Tyler Miller was beaten by Nittany Lion senior Mikey Minutillo as Penn State tied it up 1-1.
Northwestern controlled the run of play throughout the second half, but was unable to break the stalemate. The offense ran through junior Cole Missimo, who set up his teammates for some scoring opportunities throughout the match. He had a nice rapport with Weberman, setting up the senior midfield for a few nice opportunities, none of which found the back of the net.
After a second half in which neither team was able to muster much offensive pressure, the game went into overtime. Neither team threatened until Ozumba found Roberge for the last-second winner.
“I just took a touch and hoped for the best,” Roberge said. “I'm not really sure how it got through, but it was able to squirt through two defenders.”
The win moves Northwestern to 8-3-5 on the year as they look to solidify their position for postseason play, but the loss means more for Penn State. The Nittany Lions no longer control their destiny in the Big Ten regular-season title race.
But the ‘Cats will be more than happy to cause their Big Ten rivals a few more sleepless nights.
“We came into the season with very high expectations,” Roberge said. “We’d like to win a Big Ten championship. And I think all of us believe we have the team to do that.”