Nittany Lions Sneak Past Temple, 22-13
Written by: William Albright on Sunday, September 26th, 2010
By BILL ALBRIGHT
UNIVERSITY PARK — Any coach will be quick to tell you that any kind of win, even an ugly one, is better than a loss.
Saturday afternoon, Penn State overcame more mistakes than head coach Joe Paterno and his staff would like to remember as the Lions crept past a stubborn Temple Owl squad by the final of 22-13 before 104,840 fans at sun-drenched Beaver Stadium.
“I think you are underestimating some of these clubs we are playing,” said Paterno. “They (Temple) played UCLA in the bowl game last year and they lost 21-14. They are a good solid team, well coached. I think our kids had to hustle in the second half and make some plays. I think it was good for us. I’m just happy we won it.”
The Lions played the game of “give and take” early on as Evan ‘Royster ripped off a 50-yard jaunt that led to a 45-yard field goal by Collin Wagner, the first of five 3-pointers by Wagner.
But on Penn State’s next possession, Royster coughed up the ball on the PSU 28 and four plays plus an offside penalty later, Bernard Pierce swept his own right end untouched for the score. Brandon McManus’s PAT made it 7-3 Temple with 9:06 left in the opening period.
Wagner answered Pierce’s touchdown with his second field goal, but the Owls answered that 3-pointer and more with Pierce’s second TD of the game to take a 13-6 lead.
Minutes later, the Lions again penetrated Temple territory, only to once again come up short of the sticks. Wagner completed his version of the hat trick with his third field goal, a 42-yard effort.
To say the first half was less than impressive for the Penn State offense might be the understatement of the season. But in the case of the Lions, instead of TGIF, it was TGFW (Thank God For Wagner) as the Lions only trailed 13-9.
“I think we did a good job most of the day on both sides of the football and in the kicking game,” Paterno said. “It was just execution a few times and the other times it was maybe (play) selection. You’ve got to give Temple credit. They’ve got quick kids that are strong. They got tall, rangy kids that hustle and tackle well. They were tough to run on and I didn’t want to particularly throw the ball all the time down there (in the red zone) with a young quarterback. Do I think we can do better? No question about that. We have to do better down in there. We can’t waste that many scoring opportunities by getting field goals and not touchdowns. But I thought defensively and offensively we played a good, tough game. In the second half we had to come out and do some things and we did them. So I was kind of pleased with the whole day.”
Penn State had most of the numbers at halftime. The Lions had distinct advantages in first downs (10-4), total yards (220-131) and time of possession (18:16-11:44), but they still trailed by the 13-9 margin.
As bad as things were offensively in the red zone for the Lions in the first half, they didn’t get any better in the third period. If there was a positive for the Lions, the defensive unit stepped up and made some plays to keep the Owls off the scoreboard.
“We know we needed more turnovers, so we’ve been emphasizing that in practice and even during the game,” said safety Nick Sukay. “We knew the offense wasn’t clicking the way we knew they could so we knew we needed to make some plays for them and help them out as far as field position. We were emphasizing that every time we went out, we had to make a big play.”
After a number of unimpressive possessions, the “real” Nittany Lion offense appeared on the field as it put together the best drive of the season thus after taking over on their own 4-yard line following a Temple punt.
With their backs to the wall, the Lions put the offense in motion as they drove the 96 yards on a dozen plays, Michael Zordich bulling in from one yard out for the only PSU touchdown of the game. With 3:35 on the clock, Wagner set the final with his PAT.
“I just really wanted to score,“ said Zordich. “The offensive line did a good job blocking people for me, so I just put my head down and kept my feet moving to try and get as far as I could.”
Although he didn’t get into the end zone, Royster racked up his career-best as a Nittany Lion with 187 yards rushing on 26 carries.
“It’s something that we really needed,” said Royster about the drive. “It gave us a little bit more confidence. The whole game we were struggling in the red zone and we can’t have that going into Big Ten play. It’s definitely something that we need to build on and keep doing.”
So what advice did coach Paterno have for his running back?
“I was seeing the commentary about him (Royster) somewhere earlier, and I think people got the idea that I thought he wasn’t doing very well,” said Paterno. “I talked to him earlier in the week and told him to forget about what everyone is talking about. Just play your game and we’ll see what happens. I thought he played very well today, he got some yards and outside of the fumble which hurt us earlier in the game, I thought he played very well.”
As for Wagner, his five field goals was a career-best and the number tied the PSU mark for a single game. For the placekicker, it is a matter of him already having been there and done that.
“Yeah, definitely,” Wagner said. “It’s great to have a year under your belt. Coming out, even in the first game, I didn’t really have any problems with having confidence. The second year is a lot easier to go out there and know that you’ve been in this spot before and you’ve come through and that you’re capable of doing it.”
Now 3-1 on the season, the Lions now have to prepare for one of their biggest tests of the season when they open Big 10 play by traveling to Iowa to face the Hawkeyes.
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