by Scott Kindberg
November 6, 1984
Shane Conlan Makes Things Happen
And it was anything but a handshake.
Flutie, the diminutive quarterback who had already set an NCAA total offense record earlier in the quarter, was on the verge of driving his team toward another touchdown that would have closed the Nittany Lions' lead to six points.
The junior from Frewsburg swept in from his left outside linebacker spot and blindsided Flutie, popping the ball loose. Penn State's Mike Garrett pounced on the fumble and the Nittany Lions dodged another bullet.
The Penn State defense has had a knack for coming up with the big play this season and Saturday was no exception as it sacked Flutie four times, had two interceptions and recovered two fumbles.
"I saw him (Flutie) bobble it (the ball) for a little bit," Conlan said of the sack. "I just shot. I knew it was going to that side (to the left) from practice, so I just shot and took a good angle. I put my helmet on the ball. That's all I can remember."
Said Flutie, "I was just blindsided when I was getting ready to throw and I didn't see him."
Conlan and the rest of the Penn State linbackers and front four continually hounded Flutie, but the All-American quarterback managed to get off passes in every way imaginable.
The 5-9, 175-pounder completed 29 of 53 passes for 447 yards and one touchdown. That effort broke the NCAA total offense record of 9,723 yards by Jim McMahon of Brigham Young (1977-1981). Flutie now has 10,003.
He also moved into third place in career passing yards with 9,384, behind leader Ben Bennett of Duke (9,614) and McMahon (9,536).
But despite Flutie's impressive performance - he seems to have made a habit of it against the Nittany Lions - Conlan and his coach, Joe Paterno, believed the defense played well.
"We just make things happen," said Conlan, who was credited with six tackles, one pass broken up, a sack and a tackle for a loss. "If you just keep playing the defense, just keep plugging away, hustling on every play, things are going to happen. It might not happen one game, it might not happen another game, but sooner or later it's gonna take its toll."
Added Paterno, "I thought the defense did a super job. There were a couple of throws I just couldn't believe."
Flutie, who termed his performance "average," said the Nittany Lions rushed more people than in their previous meetings.
"They got to me a couple of times and had a couple of sacks," he said. "Last year they played a 50 defense and this time they played a 40. In the 40, they have more options and they can blitz more. For the most part, they just brought more people than I could handle. And the quick receiver wasn't open."
Conlan said the game plan called for more blitzing.
"Last year we sat a little more," he said. "We waited for them to do something. This year we went after them. I think that's a good way to stop them."
"Coach Sandusky (linebacker coach Jerry Sandusky) said if we're going to go after him, go after him with judgment. Take off and don't let up. Just run to his outside shoulder. And we did that a lot."
Conlan lined up either wide or tight to the line of scrimmage depending on the situation.
"When I'm out of twins (two receivers to one side), I'm on the inside receiver," he said. "I read the quarterback and go into my zone. But if I'm up tight, I usually go (blitz) or if I'm playing the tight end I'll come off my zone, too."
Conlan admits that pass defense is the part of the game that he needs to work on the most.
But, ironically, it was a pass-play on Boston College's first series that almost got Penn State on the board in a hurry.
Flutie tried to hit fullback Gerard Phelan near the sideline on third-and-seven from the Boston College 17-yard line. Conlan, reading the play, jumped up and knocked the ball away, just missing an interception.
"I was kind of turned at an angle and he threw it behind me," Conlan said. "It's hard to jump up with two hands when you're off balance, so I jumped up and I only got one hand on it. Maybe if I would have gotten both hands up I would have had an interception."
The 6-3, 217-pounder said he also had a chance at another Flutie pass over the middle later in the game.
"It's so deceiving out there with the lights," Conlan said. "Plus he looks like he's throwing everything down and it just sort of floats up. I just mistimed my jump and missed it."
When asked to evaluate his performance against Boston College, Conlan he felt he was dominant on some plays.
"I'm still not where I want to be as a football player," he said. "Today I had a lot of fun out there. Other games, I was playing alright but I wasn't dominating."
"The big thing was I had fun. If I missed a tackle here and there, I'd pop right up. Before, I'd get really mad I missed a tackle, but now I pop up. I think that will help me a lot and carry over to the next game."
Penn State, now 6-3, travels to Notre Dame November 17.