STATE COLLEGE, Pa. – With 5 minutes, 24 seconds left in the first quarter, redshirt junior middle linebacker Jordan Martin intercepted Penn State senior quarterback Daryll Clark’s pass on a first-and-10 play from the Owls’ 41-yard line.
Redshirt junior quarterback Vaughn Charlton took the first snap and threw a deep pass to sophomore wide receiver James Nixon.
Just shy of the goal line, a Penn State defensive back slapped at the ball, and Nixon dropped it.
Freshman Brandon McManus connected on the first of his two field-goal attempts, but the Owls (0-2) never drew closer and lost to the No. 5 Nittany Lions (3-0), 31-6.
“We’re obviously stronger and more physical. We had some guys who finished the game,” coach Al Golden said. “We were obviously more competitive, but we had some guys lose their poise at certain points. But I’m pleased. This year was really the first year where we had guys say, ‘Let’s go up there and try to win,’ rather than just try to survive. We had shots early against Penn State, and we didn’t convert them. They were tough in the redzone.”
The Lions scored first thanks to back-to-back big running plays, a 33-yard run from tailback Evan Royster and a 24-yard reverse to wide receiver Chaz Powell. On third-and-1 from the 1-yard line, Clark threw a touchdown pass to tight end Mickey Shuler.
After the Martin interception and subsequent drop by Nixon, the wide receiver caught a 29-yard pass on third-and-14. Redshirt senior Lamar McPherson ran for 13 yards on a third-and-18 during the same drive to set up McManus’ 25-yard field goal.
Instead of kicking off, McManus and the Owls successfully converted an onside kick but could not turn the field position into points. Junior punter Jeff Wathne pinned the Lions deep in their own territory at the 5-yard line after recovering the ball following a dropped snap.
But the Lions returned the favor to the Owls, and Penn State started at its 35-yard line after Wathne’s next punt. Royster ran in for a touchdown from seven yards out. He finished the game with 134 yards on 19 carries.
“If you don’t give them the big [passing] play, you’ve got a chance to make some plays,” Golden said. “Now, what their running backs did well is protect the ball well, and what their quarterback does well is protect the football. We wanted to try to get them to go the distance rather than give them quick ones because Akron gave them a lot of quick ones. When you have that philosophy, you have to get takeaways, and we only got one.
“But Royster made some great cuts, and we missed some open-field tackles. They are exactly who we thought they were.”
Nixon returned Penn State’s kickoff 31 yards to the 38-yard line. After advancing up to the Lions’ 35-yard line, Golden called for a deep pass to junior wide receiver Michael Campbell on a fourth-and-1 instead of opting for a running play.
The pass was incomplete, and Penn State used two more big plays of 17 yards and 10 yards to close out the half ahead 21-3.
The Owls opened the third quarter with a 36-yard pass to Joe Jones, and McManus hit a 35-yard field goal.
But after a fumble by redshirt sophomore quarterback Chester Stewart, who came in to spell Charlton for a few plays here and there, Penn State scored the next 10 points to close out the game.
Game Notes: Penn State improves to 26-0 all-time versus Temple with Joe Paterno as coach. He has lost only one game to a Mid-American Conference opponent, Toledo in 2000…In their past three games against the Nittany Lions, the Owls were outscored 123-3…Temple falls to 0-21-1 all-time at Penn State…The highest ranked opponent the Owls have ever beaten is No. 14 Virginia Tech.
Jennifer Reardon can be reached at email@example.com.