|Boston College 27, Penn State 14|
|September 6, 2003|
|Beaver Stadium - University Park, PA|
|Kickoff Time: 12:10 p.m. EDT|
|STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -
Joe Paterno runs his practices behind closed doors, so the fans and alumni
who descend on Happy Valley in cavalcades of recreational vehicles can only
wonder what takes place in the privacy of those sessions.
Judging from the Nittany Lions' performance yesterday against Boston College, here is a guess: Not much that's good, at least lately.
BC outmuscled Penn State in the trenches and on both sides of the ball, and the result was a quick execution. The Eagles blew out to a 24-0 lead in the first 171/2 minutes for a 27-14 victory before 106,445 in a nonconference game at Beaver Stadium.
Penn State (1-1) proved vulnerable in so many areas that the specter of 2000 and 2001 - when the Nittany Lions had consecutive losing seasons for the first time in the Paterno era - was raised.
The Nittany Lions' pass protection was virtually nonexistent. The defensive front of the Eagles (1-1), led by 6-foot-8, 249-pound end Mathias Kiwanuka, tore through Penn State's blockers as if they were tissue paper. Between them, Penn State quarterbacks Zack Mills and Michael Robinson must have sprinted a couple of miles trying to buy time to throw the ball.
"We really need to 'man' up," said senior tackle Damone Jones, clearly angered by his inability to handle Kiwanuka, who came up with a fumble recovery, a sack, three tackles behind the line of scrimmage, and a punishing hit that left Mills shaken in the third quarter.
"Now it's gut-check time for us," Jones said. "As one of the older guys, that falls on me. I guess I'm not doing the job."
Added center Dave Costlow: "We didn't block well, and we didn't pass-protect well."
Meanwhile, Penn State's defensive front, which, like the offensive line, is dominated by first-year starters, was consistently swept aside by BC's beefy offensive line, one that averages 312 pounds from tackle to tackle.
"We can't ever play like that again," outside linebacker Derek Wake said.
Partly because of poor protection, partly because Mills was off-target at times, the Nittany Lions' passing game was ineffective for the second straight week. Mills, who took a pounding, went 15 for 28 for only 144 yards. Robinson went 4 for 11 for 41 yards. In two games, Penn State has thrown for only 264 yards and one touchdown.
With Penn State already down by 14-0 in the first quarter, Mills tried a dump-off pass to fullback Sean McHugh, but it was intercepted by defensive tackle Tom Martin, who rumbled 25 yards to the Nittany Lions' 1.
Mills said that he had assumed that Martin would be cut down by a blocker. Wrong assumption.
"We knocked him down 15 or 20 times," BC coach Tom O'Brien said of Mills. "We pummeled him. He's a tough kid. I have great respect for him."
After Martin's interception, O'Brien allowed backup tailback Horace Dodd a sweet memory, putting him into the game to get the 1-yard TD that fattened BC's lead to 21-0.
Dodd transferred from Penn State after the 2000 season because he wanted to play running back rather than linebacker.
"This is everything that I envisioned," he said. "I just envisioned us beating them up and down the field. I knew we were going to dominate them, and that's what I told the guys before the game."
The domination began immediately. BC cruised 80 yards on eight plays on its first possession. With Penn State's defense geared to stop standout running back Derrick Knight, quarterback Quinton Porter completed 4 of 5 passes for 71 yards, the final pass an 18-yard TD strike to Grant Adams.
On the Eagles' next possession, a wide-open Tony Gonzalez went 37 yards on a catch and run, and it was 14-0. Then came Martin's interception and Dodd's TD.
So 8 minutes, 10 seconds after the opening kickoff on a gorgeous day, Penn State faced a 21-0 deficit for the first time since 1994, when it came from behind to win at Illinois.
"We thought they were going to come at us with the run," Penn State linebacker Gino Capone said. "Then they hit us with a couple passes right away, and it deflated our energy."
BC's lead reached 24-0 before freshman Austin Scott gave the Nittany Lions some hope with a 10-yard TD run before the half ended.
Despite its problems, Penn State had chances to put the squeeze on the Eagles, but they lost fumbles twice inside the BC 20.
The first occurred early in the second quarter, when receiver Kinta Palmer lost the ball at the 16. Strong safety Paul Cook popped it loose from Palmer, and Kiwanuka recovered.
In the final minute of the third quarter, Scott, who led Penn State with 60 yards on 10 carries, fumbled at the Eagles' 3, spoiling a chance for the Nittany Lions to get to within 27-14.
Robinson, who played the entire fourth quarter, scored on a 2-yard run with 6:52 remaining, but Knight, who gained 156 yards, nailed down the BC win with a 31-yard run on third and 8 that enabled the Eagles to run down the clock.
"In all fairness, you have to give BC some credit," Paterno said. "They played a hard game. They jumped on us real early. They were sharp, and we went out flat early, and we just couldn't recover. Having said all that, we obviously didn't play very well."
Notes: BC gained 383 total yards and averaged 5.6 yards a play......Penn State's Calvin Lowry racked up 55 yards on three punt returns......Members of Penn State's undefeated 1973 team were honored at halftime. About 50 of them were holding a reunion.