Penn St. rallies past Temple
STATE COLLEGE - Despite rushing for just 110 total yards in Penn State's first three games, Evan Royster remains an important part of Penn State's attack.
As it turned out, anyone who predicted Royster would have a career rushing day against Temple was on the money.
The Nittany Lions needed every one of Royster's 187 yards, and some key passes by freshman QB Rob Bolden, to overcome a stubborn Owls team.
This was not the typical Temple team Penn State fans are accustomed to seeing in Happy Valley, where the Lions have had their way with the Owls over the years.
Temple coach Al Golden came the closest in his five tries at knocking off his alma mater.
The Lions didn't take the lead for good until 1:38 left in the third quarter, then needed a 95 yard drive for their only touchdown of the game to down Temple for the 28th straight time by a 22-13 count Saturday at Beaver Stadium.
If it wasn't for the foot of Collin Wagner, who tied a school record with five field goals, Penn State (3-1) might have been in a deeper hole against the Owls (3-1).
Temple scored a pair of first quarter Bernard Pierce TDs, including one following a fumble recovery by Adrian Robinson in PSU territory, and carried a 13-9 lead into the half.
The Lions' defense shut out the Owls in the second half. Pierce left the game in the third quarter with a sprained ankle and just 42 yards.
Temple QB Chester Stewart was picked off three times, twice by free safety Nick Sukay and once by linebacker Nate Stupar, but despite the opportunities, PSU had to settle for Wagner kicks most of the afternoon.
It took a 12 play, 96 yard march in the fourth quarter that ate up almost six minutes for the Lions to finally reach the end zone, on a Michael Zordich run with 3:35 to go .
"I think we did a good job most of the day on both sides of the football and the kicking game," said Paterno, who was pleased with the Lions' ability to move the ball, except inside the 30. Of that deficiency, he explained, "it was just execution a few times and the other times it was maybe 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 with a young quarterback. 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 in the sense of TDs and not field goals.
"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."
Bolden, who connected on key third down completions of 19 yards to Graham Zug and 27 yards to Justin Brown on the drive, finished the day completing 18 of 28 for 223 yards.
"Well, hopefully he is going to get better over time and I think something like this is good for him," assessed Paterno of Bolden.
The PSU offensive line received a tough break when starting right tackle Lou Eliades tore the ACL in his knee and will be out for the remainder of the season. He was replaced by Chima Okoli.
Royster, who saw his ball-carrying load reduced against Kent State last week, responded with a 50 yard run on the first play from scrimmage and tied a career-high in carries (26).
Royster looked like the two-time 1,000 yard rusher who is on track to become PSU's all-time career leader in that department.
"I was seeing the commentary about him 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 said, 'Forget about what everyone is talking about. Just play your game and we'll see what happens.' I thought he played very well today."
"It feels good to show that I can still play the game," said Royster. "I think a lot of people were thinking that I couldn't anymore. Everybody's got their times when they're down a little bit. Hopefully we can just keep this momentum going into next week and the week after."
The Lions survived this one, but the Owls continue to close the gap.
"I was proud of their effort and obviously the way they prepared," said Golden. "It's easy to fold, it's easy to roll over and I don't think they did that. They really came in here with the intent to win the game, and by the time we get back to Philadelphia, we've got to let it go because we can't lose twice because of this."