Notebook: Mills out with sprained knee
UNIVERSITY PARK — A sprained left knee will sideline Penn State quarterback Zack Mills for at least a week, and probably longer.
Mills was injured on the final play of the first quarter Saturday against Minnesota. He picked up 14 yards on an option keeper and was brought down by linebacker Ben West.
Free safety Eli Ward ran at full speed and dove at Mills, who already was on the ground. Ward made contact with his helmet and shoulder. Mills raised his head for an instant and yelled out in pain, then slumped back to the ground.
Ward was not penalized for the borderline-late hit.
“Initially, it felt almost like I broke my leg,” Mills said. “The guy hit me from the side, and my leg went one way and my knee went the other.”
As Mills limped to the sideline, he said he heard a click and a pop in his knee. The initial diagnosis was a second-grade sprain of his left medial collateral ligament.
“I’m not sure how bad it is yet,” Nittany Lions coach Joe Paterno said after the game.
Mills will have a magnetic resonance imaging exam today. Depending upon the extent of the damage, Mills could miss 2-3 weeks, or perhaps more.
“Sunday morning, I’ll start up with rehab, and then go from there,” Mills said.
Freshman Paul Posluszny (Hopewell) got on the field for the first time this season. Early in the second quarter, Posluszny replaced linebacker Deryck Toles and wound up playing several series.
Posluszny finished with three tackles (one solo).
“He’s too good to keep him out of it,” Paterno said. “Sooner or later, he’s gonna make us a better football team.”
Only two other true freshmen, tailbacks Austin Scott and Tony Hunt, have played so far this year.
ANOTHER SLOW START
Penn State has gone three-and-out on its first possessions in all five games this season. Paterno thought the team was ready to snap that jinx yesterday, but Minnesota stole the momentum by kicking off with an onside kick.
“I knew I was going to do that last Sunday,” Gophers coach Glen Mason said. “I just felt we could recover it.”
Paterno argued briefly with the officials, arguing that a Minnesota player touched the ball before it went the required 10 yards.
“I had a very philosophical discussion with the officials,” Paterno said with a sly smile.
Paterno is concerned that many of his players were worn down by the fourth quarter.
“It seems like mental fatigue as well as physical fatigue,” he said. “I cut back so much stuff, both defensively and offensively, because I’ve been worried about the mental fatigue.”
RING THE BELL
Minnesota kept possession of the Governor’s Victory Bell, the prize at stake in the Lions-Gophers series.
As trophy games go, this one is not well-known. Still, at least one Penn State player was upset about not winning back the bell this season.
“The thing that hurt the most was seeing them hoist up that trophy in front of our fans,” defensive end Matt Rice said.
Penn State is 5-6 in its Big Ten openers and has lost its past four in a row. … Penn State began the game in a two-tight end set, giving Isaac Smolko his first career start. … Penn State had 419 yards of total offense, a season high. … Marion Barber III scored his 11th rushing touchdown, the fourth-highest single-season total in Minnesota history.