STATE COLLEGE -- Michael Zordich, dedicated fullback, cleared the path for his friend after the game.
His helmet off and extended out in front of him, Zordich waded through the crowd making sure there was plenty of space for this two-man convoy to reach the rest of the team.
Michael Mauti followed slowly behind him. He had stood beside Zordich four months ago on a field just around the corner from here as the two promised to keep Penn State football alive.
He needed crutches to follow Zordich to the end.
His left knee injured, perhaps seriously, Mauti reached the rest of his team following a 45-22 drubbing of Indiana to sing the alma mater. Standing in front of the crowd in the corner of the end zone, the players listened as the student section stopped a Let's-Go-Li-ons cheer midway through, quickly changing the verse.
The senior linebacker began to tear up. He would be one of many over the next hour.
Mauti's injury -- the exact severity is still unknown, according to coach Bill O'Brien -- lingered over an afternoon that saw Matt McGloin cement his place as one of the most prolific players in Penn State history.
McGloin threw for a career-best 395 yards and four touchdowns, blowing away a host of career and single-season school records in the process. Most prevalently, he has now thrown for more touchdowns in his career and more yards in this season than anyone ever to play for Penn State.
But the mood after the game was a somber one. Coaches and players alike became emotional when discussing Mauti, his injury and his impact on the team.
I'm sick, defensive coordinator Ted Roof said, his eyes watering and his voice barely above a whisper. I love that kid.
O'Brien was also emotional about the situation, growling when pressed for more details on Mauti's health and refusing to declare that he had played his final snap for the Nittany Lions.
Though Mauti's official diagnosis hasn't come in yet, teammates and players were essentially forced to deliver eulogies for his career after the game.
He's a huge reason why we're all here right now, said Zordich, who helped Mauti rally the team in the days after the NCAA sanctions in July, fighting to keep players from transferring to other schools.
I've been fortunate to be around some special players, said O'Brien, who went to two Super Bowls with the likes of Tom Brady. I've coached the greatest. I've coached a Hall of Fame quarterback, Hall of Fame receivers. Great players. And (Mauti) is one of the most special players I've been around.
He embodies, in my opinion, what Penn State's all about. He's tough, grind-it-out, smart. He's just a fantastic kid.
And he's been through this before. Twice, in fact.
So that's why Beaver Stadium fell silent in the first quarter after an innocuous 4-yard run by the Hoosiers.
Mauti was left on the ground after getting an assist on the tackle. He looked to be in serious pain.
Already engaged with guard Collin Rahrig, Mauti took a shot down low from tailback D'Angelo Roberts. A chop block.
If that's what happened, I consider that a cheap shot, Zordich said.
Mauti buckled and crashed to the grass. He had already suffered two serious knee injuries in his five years at Penn State, tearing the ACL in his right knee in 2009 and the ACL in his left knee in 2011.
Trainers rushed out to examine his left knee this time.
If I could give him one of my knees, fellow linebacker Gerald Hodges said, I would. He's the heart and soul of this team.
The cart came out quickly for Mauti. Zordich offered his hand and a few words to Mauti before he was sped away. Penn State's entire sideline responded by walking out onto the field to acknowledge his exit.
He deserves that respect, Zordich said.
Penn State (7-4, 5-2 Big Ten) responded by steamrolling the Hoosiers (4-7, 2-5), piling up season-highs in points and total yards (546). Allen Robinson caught three of McGloin's four touchdown passes to give him 11 on the season.
Zach Zwinak (135 yards) caught the other and added a second score on the ground. Zordich himself added a 4-yard touchdown at the end of the third quarter, the final one of the day.
Now it's up to Zordich and the rest of the Lions to pick themselves off the floor once again and close out the season next week against Wisconsin.
We've taken shots and gotten back up every time, Zordich said. That's the reason why we love playing on this team. That's the kind of team you want to be.
It's a funny and crazy game and things are going to happen that you do not want or expect. But you just need to bounce back from it and keep going. That's exactly what we do and that's what (Mauti) does.
For one more game. For one last time.