Flu bug, Temple can't stop Penn State
UNIVERSITY PARK - Penn State might have faced its toughest challenge of the season last week.
It was the flu bug that may have hit the Nittany Lions (3-0) harder than any of its first three opponents, although Temple did have its moments.
Coach Joe Paterno revealed after the Lions' 31-6 dismantling of the Owls Saturday that about 15-16 PSU players had suffered some ill symptoms during practice.
Having the Owls, long-time whipping boys for PSU, in Happy Valley turned out to be the right medicine for any lingering effects for the fifth-ranked Lions.
Temple, coached by PSU grid alum Al Golden, hasn't beaten the Lions since 1941, although Paterno did credit his protégé's squad for putting up a fight, or at least playing things straight up.
During their first two games, victories over Akron and Syracuse, the defenses crowded the line of scrimmage, looking to stop the Lions' running game and have QB Daryll Clark throw to a new crew of receivers.
This week, working on the ground attack was the priority, and in that regard PSU was successful. Evan Royster, one of the afflicted, said he had a 102 degree fever on Friday. On Saturday, he was over the century mark (119) for the first time this season by halftime, finishing with 134 yards on 19 carries and a TD.
Royster's showing was fitting on Favorite Jersey Day, the latest PSU game theme, in which fans were encouraged to wear the jersey of their favorite Lions, past and present. Royster's 22 has been worn by Heisman Trophy winner John Cappelletti, Chuck Burkhart and Brian Milne.
The Lions tweaked their offensive line a bit, with Johnnie Troutman getting the start at left guard for Blue Mountain product Matt Stankiewitch, and ended up outrushing the Owls 186-46.
"I think we did some things well," said Paterno. "You got to understand, Temple didn't play us the way Akron and Syracuse did. They were playing a four-spoke secondary and did some blitzing later on, but not a lot of it.
"In the first two games, we were playing against 8-9 kids in the box, which makes it tough, especially when you want to spread it out and throw the football."
Temple (0-2) did some things to give itself a chance, such as intercepting Clark and recovering an onside kick, but one thing the Owls couldn't do is reach the end zone, which has been a problem against the Lions.
PSU swarmed over the Owls, with linebackers Josh Hull (13 tackles) and Sean Lee (12 stops and a sack) and defensive end Jack Crawford leading the way. The closest Temple came to getting across the goal line was a pass that cornerback Knowledge Timmons batted away at the last moment.
The Owls' six points actually doubled their output against the Lions in Golden's three previous meetings vs. his alma mater.
Lee, who left the game in the second half with a left knee injury that wasn't deemed serious, was named Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week for his performance.
As for the offense, Clark managed to complete 16 of 26 passes for 167 yards, connecting on TD passes to tight end Mickey Shuler and wideout Derek Moye, although he suffered a stinger in the first half and wasn't as sharp as in the first two games.
Still, the question remains, how good are the Lions? Or even more intriguing, how good can they be? It's hard to tell after cruising through three games PSU was overwhelmingly favored to win.
"We played well and hard against the teams we've played. You try to work on your technique," said Paterno. "We were a little sloppy in some ways, but I thought we played better than we have so far. It isn't as if we won't we have a chance to show people how good we are."
It didn't take long for the talk to turn to Iowa, the Lions' opponent in their Big Ten opener this coming Saturday night. The Hawkeyes are also unbeaten (3-0) and in addition, they have had PSU's number, winning six of the last seven meetings, including handing the Lions their lone conference loss last season.
"I don't look back on that," said Paterno. "The team we're going to play this Saturday is not the team we played last year, or five years ago, and we're not the same team. Historically, they've been a very physical team along the line of scrimmage, so we expect the same this year."
With a Beaver Stadium White Out planned and a national TV audience viewing in on the 8 p.m. kickoff, the Lions will find out if they are ready to defend their Big Ten title.