Saturday, September 15, 2007

Penn State pulls away in second half

By Jared Trexler
The Phanatic Magazine

Anthony Morelli tossed a career-high four touchdowns and Rodney Kinlaw ran for a career-best 129 yards and a score, as No. 12 Penn State broke the game open after a sloppy start to down Buffalo, 45-24, at Beaver Stadium.

Morelli completed 20-of-27 for 202 yards, Deon Butler hauled in five passes for 73 yards and Andrew Quarless, back from a two-game suspension to start the season, caught two touchdown passes for the Nittany Lions (3-0), who travel to Ann Arbor to face beleaguered Michigan next Saturday.

Austin Scott ran for 53 yards nine on carries, however 40 of those yards came on a fourth-quarter touchdown run. The senior running back was benched earlier in the first quarter allowing two fumbles, making way for Kinlaw's career day.

Drew Willy connected on 28-of-39 passes for a career-high 330 yards with one touchdown and one interception, while James Starks ran for 41 tough yards and a touchdown. Naamon Roosevelt caught seven passes for 114 yards for Buffalo (1-2), which put up quite a fight during the game's first 27-plus minutes.

"We are making progress," said Buffalo head coach Turner Gill. "I am still never going to pat myself on the back. There are some good things there. We are going to take the positive things from this football game, and we are going to try to improve. I am more proud of the effort. That is something that we talk about. You can always control the effort. We did some good things offensively and defensively, and that is what we are going to focus on."

Scott fumbled the exchange with Morelli inside the 10-yard line on Penn State's second possession, resulting in the game's first points. Sean Lee's hit on Mario Henry at the two-yard line saved a touchdown, but A.J. Principie drilled a 19-yard field goal.

Derrick Williams' 11-yard punt return set up the Nittany Lions at the Buffalo 39-yard line early in the second stanza. The offense methodically moved the chains from there, eventually settling for Kevin Kelly's game-tying 27-yard field goal.

The Penn State offense finally awoke on its final two series of the half, aided by Morelli's receivers and a ball-hawking defense.

"I thought they were very aggressive early and we had to settle down," said Penn State head coach Joe Paterno. "I thought there were a couple of passes that were just a little bit off. I thought the whole game, pass protection was good. I think we did a lot of things right from the beginning. I didn't think we were really sluggish. We weren't as sharp, maybe, as you'd like to be. But you have to give the other guy a little bit of credit. Until they got a little tired, they were very competitive."

An 11-play, 67-yard march got off to a good start with Kinlaw's 12-yard scamper and Morelli's 14-yard out pattern to Jordan Norwood. On 3rd-and-4 from the Bulls 21-yard line, Morelli floated a pass down the seam to a single- covered Quarless. The tight end, who missed the first two games because of disciplinary problems, reached up and plucked the pass high above his head in the end zone for the score and a 10-3 advantage.

On Buffalo's next series, Willy found Brett Hamlin in the left flat, but he was spun around and stripped by safety Tony Davis, and hero back Anthony Scirrotto took the ball out of midair and moved his way to the Bulls 18-yard line.

Penn State pushed to the Bulls five-yard line, and on 1st-and-goal, Morelli's quick slant was behind Norwood, as the receiver reached back and tipped the ball into the air. He fell to the ground and the ball found its way into his chest while laying on the grass for a five-yard touchdown and a 17-3 edge with 59 ticks left.

Morelli completed 12-of-18 for 94 yards in the half and Kinlaw ran for 78 yards on 14 carries.

The Nittany Lions showed even more life on offense out of the locker room. On the drive's fifth play, Morelli rolled out of a play-action fake and threw a strike into the flat to Terrell Golden, who waltzed untouched into the end zone for a 27-yard touchdown and a 27-3 advantage.

Penn State pushed the edge to 31-3 later in the third with the big play coming when Morelli lofted a 45-yard pass down the seam to a fully-extended Butler. Morelli capped the march with a four-yard TD pass to Quarless parked in the end zone's back left corner.

Buffalo stretched a 13-play, 70-yard drive over two quarters to score the first touchdown allowed by Penn State's defense in 12 quarters this season. Starks finished it off with a five-yard run for a 31-10 game.

Kinlaw began and ended Penn State's 61-yard touchdown drive on the game's next series. He sprinted for six and 14 yards on two consecutive running plays and later caught an 18-yard swing pass from Morelli. Kinlaw finished the drive with a six-yard run for a touchdown with 8:07 left.

Buffalo struck again with help of Skyler Hagg's 52-yard kickoff return into Penn State territory. Willy then lofted a pass down the middle for 38 yards to tight end Jesse Rack. Mario Henry later lofted a pass that Ernest Jackson caught in the end zone for a nine-yard score.

Scott's 40-yard sprint off left tackle pushed the edge to 45-17, and Buffalo completed the scoring with Willy's two-yard touchdown pass to LaRon Haymore in the closing seconds.

"It was great for our players and staff to play here," said Gill of the atmosphere. "Joe Paterno and his staff do a great job. It was just a great place for us to play."

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