|Penn State 23, Temple 10|
|August 30, 2003|
|Beaver Stadium - University Park, PA|
|Kickoff Time: 3:40 p.m. EDT|
|STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -
As he entered the media room, Michael Robinson held an ice pack tightly
against his swollen right eye and walked with a hobbled gait because of
a twisted ankle.
Penn State's redshirt sophomore was bearing the wounds from playing some quarterback, some tailback, some slotback and some wide receiver and also returning punts against Temple yesterday.
Robinson may have looked like a boxer who came out on the wrong end of a decision, but he had delivered the key body blow that helped the Nittany Lions down the determined Owls, 23-10, before 101,553 yesterday in the opening game for both teams at Beaver Stadium.
"They kept poking me in the eye at the bottom of pileups, but that happens in football," said Robinson, a backup quarterback who led Penn State in rushing with 84 yards on nine carries.
Midway through the fourth quarter, Robinson lined up at tailback and found an open lane in Temple's stubborn defense, racing 53 yards to the Owls' 19-yard line. Five plays later, 263-pound fullback Sean McHugh plowed into the end zone from 4 yards out to give the Nittany Lions a 20-3 lead with 7 minutes, 45 seconds remaining. At last, Penn State's concerned fans could breathe easily.
"Joe [Penn State coach Joe Paterno] said on the sideline to get me the ball and let me go," Robinson said. "I got as far as I could."
Up to then, heavy underdog Temple had refused to allow the Nittany Lions to get comfortable.
The Owls got Penn State's attention with Makonne Fenton, who ran for 118 yards, and a defense that rendered the Lions' passing game ineffective, except for a breakdown that enabled Tony Johnson to shake free for a 56-yard touchdown on a pass from Zack Mills in the second quarter.
Temple, which outplayed Penn State in the first half yet trailed by 7-3, simply didn't take advantage of its opportunities to tighten the screws on the Nittany Lions. The crusher for the Owls came after Lawrence Wade intercepted a pass by Mills and ran 29 yards to the Penn State 11-yard line. An 8-yard run by quarterback Walter Washington set up Temple at the 3-yard line on second down. After Washington lost a yard, Penn State cornerback Alan Zemaitis made a superb play by swatting away a Mike McGann pass intended for Buchie Ibeh in the back of the end zone.
Then Jared Davis, who earlier missed a 33-yard field goal in the first quarter, was wide right on a 26-yard attempt. Davis couldn't disguise his angst as he jogged to the sideline.
Afterward, Temple coach Bobby Wallace second-guessed himself for the play-calling after the interception.
"We missed a big opportunity," Wallace said. "Lawrence Wade made a big play to get the ball inside the red zone. Then it was second-and-short, and we had a poor play that I should not have let happen. I take responsibility for it. We should have jammed it right at them and put it right in the end zone, which we could have done."
"It was at that point when we got back on the right page," Johnson said. Penn State, which had tried to loosen Temple's defense with trick plays in the first half, got down to basics. Paterno unveiled Austin Scott, his highly touted freshman running back, who helped set up a pair of Robbie Gould field goals in the third quarter that stretched the lead to 13-3. The revamped offensive line, unnerved by Temple's stunts in the first half, began wearing down the Owls.
"We became more confident when we just started to go nose to nose against them," said offensive tackle Damone Jones, a fifth-year senior from Central High School who made his first start.
"You could see the Temple guys just started to get tired," Johnson added.
Scott, who set single-season Pennsylvania records with 3,853 yards and 53 touchdowns at Parkland High School near Allentown, stirred the crowd with third-quarter runs of 11 and 18 yards. He finished with 69 yards on 12 carries.
"He's going to be great," Robinson said of the 6-0, 215-pound Scott. "It's too bad you guys [the media] aren't allowed to talk to him."
Paterno has had a long-standing policy of refusing true freshmen access to the media.
During his weekly teleconference on Tuesday, Paterno announced that fifth-year senior Ricky Upton would start at tailback. Instead, Robinson started. Scott had the most carries. Another highly regarded freshman, Tony Hunt, also saw some playing time.
Asked to evaluate Scott and Hunt, Paterno said, "They both handled themselves well. They held onto the ball, and they ran in the right direction."
Down by 20-3, Temple refused to pack it in. With help from a 27-yard completion off a fake punt, the Owls finally got into the end zone when Fenton scored from 3 yards out with 4:49 to go. But Penn State's Rich Gardner recovered the onside kick and Gould finished the scoring with his third field goal.
Notes: Both Temple and Penn State had nine players make their first career starts... . Penn State is 31-7 in opening games under Paterno... . The Owls held the Nittany Lions to 79 yards passing, limiting Mills to 6 for 17... . Penn State had 186 of its 231 rushing yards in the second half.