|Score by Quarters
||PSU - Kevin Kelly 23-yard field goal
||PSU - Alan Zemaitis 16-yard fumble recovery
||PSU - Tony Hunt 1-yard run (Kelly kick)
||USF - Johnny Peyton 8-yard pass from
Julmiste (Benzer kick)
||PSU - Michael Robinson 4-yard run (Kick Blocked)
||USF - Johnny Peyton 4-yard pass from Julmiste (Pass
PARK, Pa. - As the clock ran out on Penn State's 23-13 victory over South Florida
yesterday evening, Happy Valley rarely looked happier.
The surrounding hills were
still carpeted in summer's thick green growth. The weather was cool.
The sky was marbled pink and blue. And the twin
scoreboards looming like electronic gargoyles over Beaver Stadium confirmed
the Nittany Lions' opening-game triumph.
So why, as they exited through
the south end-zone tunnel beneath thousands of apparently delighted fans, did
the Nittany Lions look so glum?
Probably because on a day when a brighter future
could occasionally be glimpsed, the recent past wouldn't go away.
"We went through a lot of preparations in the off-season," explained
co-captain Alan Zemaitis, whose last two teams were a combined 7-16. "We
did a lot of talking among ourselves. We really wanted to go out there
and set the stage. We won the game, yes. But it was not something that
we're particularly proud of."
For the players at least, their victorious
performance, marked by defensive highlights but ongoing offensive frustrations,
was far too reminiscent
of 2004 to allow them to build upon the optimism that had been evident
ever since they closed last season with two victories.
Penn State, with
the versatile Michael Robinson at last glued beneath center but still looking
uncomfortable throwing the ball, scuffled against
an undersized South Florida defense that had yielded more than 500 yards
to several opponents a year ago.
"There were a lot of first-game jitters," said Robinson, "me
Under constant siege while its makeshift offensive struggles
to find itself, Robinson ran the ball 18 times for 75 yards - many of them
of desperation - but picked up only 90 yards passing (9 of 15 with an
"It [the passing game] was not very good," said Penn State
head coach Joe Paterno. "But we'll get better. There's a lot of
young kids out there. And we had some trouble with some things they did
What gave Paterno, Robinson and others hope that the
offense would eventually turn a corner were ballyhooed freshmen Derrick
Williams and Justin King.
Williams broke free down the sideline on the Robinson
bomb that opened the game before a USF defender grabbed him for a defensive-holding
The Greenbelt, Md., blue-chipper caught three balls for 38 yards and
ran it twice for 6 more.
"He'd come back to the huddle all excited, saying 'They
can't cover me. They can't cover me,' " said Robinson. "And I'd say, 'All
right, T.O., all right.' "
King, meanwhile, turned a first-quarter reverse into a 61-yard sideline
scamper that set up the game's first score, a 23-yard field goal by freshman
placekicker Kevin Kelly, a Neshaminy High grad. He ran once more for 5
yards and played some cornerback.
"Our offense struggled today," said senior safety Chris
Harrell, who returned with a bang and an interception after sitting out 2004
with a neck injury. "But there's a big difference from last year. Last year
we really couldn't make any big plays. This year defenses know we've got the
potential for them with the speed of those young guys."
It was three big plays that provided the difference for Penn State. King's
long run; a 70-yard gallop by tailback Tony Hunt (15 carries for 144 yards and
a TD) that set up Penn State's last score and gave the Lions a 23-7 lead with
10 minutes, 16 seconds left; and cornerback Zemaitis' 16-yard touchdown with
a fumble recovery on the series after Kelly's field goal.
South Florida had plenty of speed itself. Quarterback
Pat Julmiste completed 21 of 35 passes for 200 yards and two TDs to nine
different receivers. Johnny Peyton, Jackie Chambers and Andre Hall had
four each with Peyton grabbing both scoring passes. And tailback Hall plugged
away for 78 yards
on 21 carries.
As happened often in 2004, the defense, playing without suspended
linebacker Dan Connor and losing tackle Jim Shaw to a knee injury early, was
on the field too long.
South Florida ran 75 plays to Penn State's 54. "At the end we were
winded," said senior defensive end Tamba Hali. "The offense wasn't
putting together long drives so we've got to step it up."
For all the Lions' struggles, the outcome was never really in doubt. When
they led, 10-0, after Kelly's field goal and Zemaitis' TD, the Bulls hadn't yet
picked up a first down.
That lead became 17-0 two plays after Harrell's interception when,
on the second play of the second quarter,
Hunt ran it in from a yard out.
With just four seconds remaining in the half, South Florida got on
the board when Peyton outleaped King and Harrell for a Julmiste lob into the
corner of the end zone.
Robinson ran 4 yards one play after King's big run to give Penn State
a 23-7 lead. The Bulls' final score came with 2:52 remaining on Julmiste's 4-yard
pass to Peyton.
"It was a win but we all need to improve," said Robinson. "Still,
we've won three games in a row and it's been a long time  since any team
has done that around here."