UNIVERSITY PARK - The play calling his number didn't clearly register with Shane McGregor when it first came into the huddle.
''I actually didn't realize we were on the 4-yard line,'' McGregor said. "I figured, 'Let's get the first down.'''
You couldn't blame McGregor for being a bit overwhelmed. Three plays earlier was the first live game action the Ebensburg native and Central Cambria High School product had seen in his four years as a walk-on at Penn State, and, although many of the 96,461 that had attended had already left Beaver Stadium, this was a big deal.
Mirror photo by Patrick Waksmunski
Penn State third-string quarterback Shane McGregor, a Central Cambria High School graduate, hands off to Derek Day in the fourth.
So McGregor made the most of his four-down-and-1 sneak, following his guard and center straight into the end zone for the Nittany Lions' last score in their 41-7 rout of overmatched FCS foe Indiana State on Saturday.
"It was a good experience. I'd never been in a game before, so, just to get that and then to get the touchdown on top of it, that was the icing on the cake,'' McGregor said.
McGregor wasn't the only one who enjoyed it, and the good feelings extended beyond family and close friends.
"Shane sometimes might work too hard,'' said Lions all-Big Ten receiver Derek Moye. "He leads. I guess a lot of people would say, 'He leads?' because he doesn't really play very much, but he's definitely a guy people look to when they need stuff. He's a great worker, and he's a great asset to our team.''
Games like Saturday's affords opportunities not only for the coaches to evaluate the players and try some things without much chance of a miscue proving too costly, but it also gives the players who don't usually see the field a shot to show their stuff or live their dreams.
McGregor, the third-string quarterback behind Rob Bolden and Matt McGloin, wasn't the only name not usually appearing on the participation chart to see action. Young reserve running back Curtis Dukes got six carries for 51 yards, including a 30-yard gainer in the fourth quarter. Michael Yancich, a great athlete stuck behind a logjam of standouts at linebacker, finished second on the team with six tackles, including 1 for loss. Legacy receiver Ryan Scherer, a walk-on, unlike Dukes and Yancich, caught a pass for 7 yards, while J.R. Refice contributed a 1-yard run.
"Those guys work just as hard as we do. Some of them work even harder. When their hard work pays off on Saturday and they can get a touchdown or make a few plays here or there, it's definitely a great thing,'' Moye said. "Going into games like this as starters, we want to put as many points up as we can, not to embarrass the other team, but to get the guys in who have been putting in just as much work as we have.''
Derek Day, a Centre County native via Harrisburg and Central Dauphin High School, has gotten on the field for Penn State before, but primarily as a special teamer. Against Indiana State, though, Day got to carry the ball for the first time.
"It's hard to imagine until you get there. It's almost like you don't even notice what's going on around you, except for what's on the field,'' Day said with a wide grin.
Day toted it three straight times for 9 yards. He was so ecstatic that he didn't even mind that McGregor bulled it the final 3 yards for the score.
"I was happy for him, truthfully, as long as we get into the end zone. It's great to be in there when that happens,'' Day said. "Any chance I get to get on the field and try to help the team by making a play, it's just great. It's something that I've always wanted to do.''
Day grew up in a Penn State family and turned down some small-college powers to walk-on for the Nittany Lions, even though games like those against Indiana State or the Blue-White Game were likely to be the highlight of his career.
"The atmosphere is incredible. There's really nothing that can compare to it, in my eyes, at least. Schools like Delaware have a great following as well, but it's nothing like the community and the Penn State family that you have here,'' Day said.
A former star at Williamsburg High School, Penn State offensive coordinator Galen Hall was warmed by seeing a couple of other local boys do well.
"Those two in particular have worked very hard during practice,'' Hall said. "I'm very happy with both of them. It's a great opportunity for them to get in in front of the home crowd and get some playing time.''
Both McGregor and Day - as well as probably most of the team and the fans - realized there was an excellent chance they'd see action against Indiana State.
"I tried to prepare myself,'' McGregor said. "So then, the fourth quarter came around, I'd made sure I was loose. Just get the snap, turn around and hand it off and just do what I always do in practice.''
McGregor said it was like a dream come true, but it's also a dream he feels is very much alive, and now he's looking for more. He knows the odds of seeing meaningful action might be slim, but he tries to always be ready. Right in front of him on the depth chart is both affirmation and motivation - McGloin, like McGregor, came to Penn State as a walk-on.
"I knew the journey would be long. I knew I wouldn't be a freshman starter or have the read carpet rolled out for me, but I came here with the full intent that I wanted to play. It's taken awhile. I've had patience. And I'm not satisfied with this, either. I want to keep building on this,'' McGregor said.
McGregor changed numbers this season, switching from 16 to 2. He said the reason was purely aesthetic.
"I thought it looked good,'' McGregor said. "It looked good on Cam Newton.''
Of course, no one is going to confuse McGregor with the dual-threat Heisman Trophy winner from Auburn ... or maybe they will. After all, McGregor has the statistics on his side.
"Hey, one carry, one touchdown,'' McGregor said with a smile.