Call it a momentum builder.
When Joe Paterno referred to Saturday's 52-3 annihilation of overmatched Eastern Illinois as "a good workout", he didn't mean that the Panthers pushed the Nittany Lions on a competitive level.
Rather, he was referring to the chance to play a lot of players and the opportunity to do things well, adding steam to what the Lions did a week before in a 35-17 win against Big Ten foe Illinois.
This was primarily a big payday for the Panthers (4-2), a decent Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) program (formerly NCAA Division I-AA) that has occasionally tested the waters against Big Ten opponents in the past few years.
Not that EIU's visit to Happy Valley was of particular interest to the Lion faithful. Attendance was announced at 104,448, but some reports said the actual number of bodies in the stands at Beaver Stadium was much less than that, probably somewhere under the usual six figures.
As expected, Penn State, now 5-1, won handily, racking up 553 yards of total offense and having seven different players reach the end zone.
Star linebacker Sean Lee sat out his third straight game with a sprained knee, but he wasn't needed in a game when linebacking mate Navorro Bowman scored more touchdowns than the Panthers did.
Even the offensive line, maligned for most of the month of September, got the job done without tackles Nerraw McCormack and DeOn'tae Pannell, who sat out with sprained ankles while Ako Poti made his first career start. The Lions ground out 268 yards rushing. Evan Royster led the way with 94 yards on the ground and Stephfon Green added a 26 yard TD run.
Lions quarterback Daryll Clark had little pressure as he connected on 13 of 19 passes for 234 yards, although he did throw his seventh interception. Clark tossed TD passes to Brett Brackett, Chaz Powell and Derek Moye before giving way to reserves Kevin Newsome and Matt McGloin in the second half.
Defensively, the Lions didn't allow a touchdown, sacking quarterback Jake Christensen, an Iowa transfer, five times, with the pressure coming from linemen Jared Odrick, Ollie Ogbu and Jack Crawford. The PSU defense has allowed just five TDs in six games this season.
One of Ogbu's hits dislodged the ball from Christensen during a second quarter drive, which Bowman scooped up and rambled 91 yards the opposite way for the score. At least it appears Bowman's groin injury has healed.
The Lions' special teams even got into the act, blocking a Panther punt to set up Moye's TD catch.
Up 38-0 at half, the second half was the time for the reserves to gain some valuable varsity experience, particularly Newsome, who fumbled twice but did rush seven times for 49 yards and a TD. Passing-wise, the freshman QB was 4-for-5 for 34 yards.
A total of eight true freshman saw action in the contest for the Lions, who now will close out the remainder of their schedule against Big Ten competition, beginning with Minnesota at Beaver Stadium on Saturday.