|Score by Quarters
||NW - Terrell Jordan 1-yard run (Huffman
||PSU - Isaac Smolko 2-yard pass from Mills
||NW - Noah Herron 1-yard run (Huffman kick)
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. - The pass was there and so was Michael Robinson,
the Penn State receiver with the surest hands and the burning desire to
make up for a mistake that had put the Nittany Lions into an early hole.
If that scenario sounds hopeful for the angry, frustrated folks
who trek to the middle of nowhere and file into Beaver Stadium believing
things just can't get any worse for coach Joe Paterno and his team, well,
you haven't been following Penn State football these days. What came next
- now that's Penn State football.
In full stride and with a step on his defender at the Northwestern
2-yard line, Robinson dropped the perfectly thrown pass from Zack Mills
with less than four minutes remaining in the fourth quarter yesterday,
and Paterno and the Nittany Lions were once again left to grope for explanations
for yet another loss.
This time, Penn State went down, 14-7, in a Big Ten Conference
game as Northwestern took advantage of a poorly thrown pass by Robinson
to get an early touchdown, then used its massive offensive line and the
tough running of Noah Herron to protect its first-ever win at Beaver Stadium.
"Oh, man, I've got to make that catch," Robinson said
after Penn State (2-7, 0-6 Big Ten) lost a conference game for the 13th
time in the last 14 tries and sank below Illinois into last place. "As
soon as I came off my break, the ball was right there and it kind of shocked
me. I got my hands up a little late. But at this level I've got to make
that play, and I didn't. It was a great pass."
Although the attendance was announced as 100,353 in the 108,000-seat
stadium, there appeared to be at least 15,000 empty seats. There's no
logical reason to expect to fill a stadium for a team that has so many
problems on offense.
When Mills tossed a 2-yard pass to tight end Isaac Smolko to tie
the game, 7-7, just before the halftime break, it was Penn State's fourth
TD in the last six games. Mills, who once again was serenaded with boos,
pointed to the sky and briefly pumped his fist.
"It was about time, you know," said a dejected Mills,
who completed 21 of 34 passes for 183 yards, but will likely step aside
next week against Indiana so that freshman Anthony Morelli can get some
"Everybody's always wanting something new," added Mills,
a fifth-year senior who returned after sitting out last week's game against
Iowa with a concussion. "They'll get it in two more games."
Afterward, Paterno said he put aside his plan to give Morelli some
playing time because he thought the team had a better chance of winning
"I told him [Morelli] a couple of times to get ready,"
Paterno said. "I was very close. If we had gotten behind by more
than a touchdown, I probably would have stuck him in, but I didn't want
to sit Zack on the bench when I thought we still had a shot at it."
On its first play from scrimmage, Penn State tried some razzle-dazzle.
Good idea. Bad execution. Mills handed the ball to running back Tony Hunt,
who then gave it to Robinson. Mark Rubin was open deep, but Robinson,
pressured from behind, threw a pass to Hunt that was intercepted by strong
safety Dominique Price at the Northwestern 33-yard line.
"The primary receiver [Rubin] was way downfield and he was
open, but I didn't think I could get it to him," Robinson said. "And
then I saw Tony wide open and tried to get it to him, but the safety came
over and made a great play. He read my eyes."
The Wildcats (5-4, 4-2) cashed in. On third and 10, Jonathan Fields
made a nice cutback and broke free for 51 yards after taking a screen
pass. A facemask penalty against Penn State's Alan Zemaitis was tacked
on to the play, giving Northwestern a first down at the 8-yard line.
Herron ran to the 1 but left the game in a daze after taking a
big hit from cornerback Anwar Phillips. Terrell Jordan plowed into the
end zone for a 7-0 Northwestern lead.
Herron made a remarkable comeback, running for 175 yards on 30
carries. He scored the eventual game-winner with a 1-yard TD early in
the fourth quarter, finishing off an impressive 83-yard drive.
"He was out of it for a while, not knowing what was going
on," Northwestern coach Randy Walker said.
Penn State's offense knows the feeling. Anyone wondering why the
Nittany Lions have scored 47 points in their seven losses can reference
an ugly sequence in the third quarter, when the score was tied, 7-7, and
Penn State had first down at the Northwestern 12-yard line.
First down: a 10-yard penalty on tight end John Bronson for an
illegal block. That was followed by a 2-yard completion, an incompletion,
a draw play for 6 yards and, finally, a missed 31-yard field goal by Robbie
In a reference to Penn State's unhappy followers, Paterno said:
"Nobody likes to lose. I appreciate any of the sentiments of the
people who are upset with our losing. They have every right to be upset.
That isn't what concerns me because I can't do anything about them being
upset. I've got to do something about trying to make our team better."
Notes: Linebacker Dan Connor, a freshman from Strath Haven High,
had 16 tackles in his second start of the season, the most by a Penn State
player in two years......Defensive tackle Scott Paxson, a junior from
Roman Catholic High, had his fifth blocked field goal this season, and
the seventh of his career.