Penn State 34, Northwestern 29 Penn State Nittany LionsNorthwestern Wildcats
September 24, 2005
Ryan Field - Evanston, IL
Attendance: 24,395
Kickoff Time: 12:00 p.m. EDT
Score by Quarters 1 2 3 4 Score
Penn State 0 14 3 17 34
Northwestern 10 13 0 6 29

Scoring Summary
1st 09:08 NU - Tyrell Sutton 1-yard run (Howells kick)
  02:06 NU - Joel Howells 20-yard field goal
2nd 14:56 NU - Joel Howells 25-yard field goal
  12:26 PSU - Justin King 37-yard pass from Robinson (Kelly kick)
  08:16 NU - Tyrell Sutton 1-yard run (Howells kick)
06:34 NU - Joel Howells 42-yard field goal
  00:35 PSU - Deon Butler - 26-yard pass from Robinson (Kelly kick)
3rd 10:08 PSU - Kevin Kelly 25-yard field goal
4th 14:13 PSU - Kevin Kelly 28-yard field goal
  10:15 NU - Joel Howells 46-yard field goal
  08:52 PSU - Michael Robinson 8-yard run (Kelly kick)
  02:10 NU - Joel Howells 25-yard field goal
  00:51 PSU - Derrick Williams 36-yard pass from Robinson (Kelly kick)

EVANSTON, Ill. - Michael Robinson lay on the ground. His last pass of the game tumbled through the air. Somewhere in between hung the fate of the 2005 Penn State football season.
  Sandwiched by two defenders, Robinson never saw his game-winning touchdown pass land in the hands of freshman receiver Derrick Williams.
  The 36-yard play, which came with just 51 seconds remaining, gave the Nittany Lions a flawed, frantic and ultimately fulfilling 34-29 victory over Northwestern yesterday at Ryan Field.
  "I saw Mike start to run, and I'm yelling, 'Throw it! Get rid of it!' " said Penn State coach Joe Paterno, who became the 11th coach in Big Ten history to win 100 conference games.
  "We're at a stage where we're getting good," he said. "I think you only get good through adversity. And I think they dealt with adversity today."
  The stirring comeback from a 23-7 first-half hole in its Big Ten opener gave an erratic but maturing Penn State team a 4-0 record. Maybe more important, it taught the Lions that they could beat opponents from a Bowl Championship Series conference on the road - something they had managed to do just once in the last two seasons. And beat them when they turned the ball over and committed a boneheaded penalty.
  "That was a better victory for us than if we just blew them out," tight end Isaac Smolko said. "We really needed a game like that for our confidence, especially one on the road."
  Smolko made just one reception. But with the possible exception of Williams' catch in the final minute, it was the game's most significant. It came not long after a personal foul by safety Chris Harrell on a failed third-down play by Northwestern gave the Wildcats a reprieve. They proceeded to march downfield to grab a 29-27 lead on Joel Howells' fifth field goal of the game.
  On fourth and 15 at the Lions' 15, Smolko caught a 20-yard over-the-middle throw from a poised Robinson, who, despite turning the ball over four times in a dreadful first half and completing just 17 of 36 passes, had been assuring his teammates that they would prevail.
  "In practice, we hit it every single time," Robinson said of the play. "Smolko gets it every single time."
  The middle was free for Smolko because of the corner-beating speed Williams and fellow freshman Justin King, whose 37-yard touchdown reception got Penn State on the board early in the second quarter.
  The Lions, seven-point favorites, looked ripe to be upset against a Northwestern team that shredded their defense as effectively as any opponent this season or last. The Wildcats ran an astounding 95 plays and accumulated 427 yards of offense.
  Northwestern marched 80 yards on 16 plays on the opening drive, taking a 7-0 lead on a 1-yard leap by freshman tailback

Derrick Williams

Tyrell Sutton. Behind the running of Sutton (32 carries for 112 yards) and the passing of clever quarterback Brett Basanez (20 for 38 for 229 yards), Northwestern also produced four more first-half scoring drives. And thanks to four Penn State turnovers and a lost pooch kickoff, Northwestern led by 23-14 at the half.
  "You turn the ball over that many times on the road and you're usually going to get your ears pinned," said Paterno, who was battling the flu. "But the kids hung in there."
  Robinson went to his freshmen wideouts on all three of his TD passes, with Deon Butler catching the second, a 26-yarder, just 35 seconds before halftime. Robinson scored the other Penn State touchdown on an 8-yard run with 8 minutes, 52 seconds to play, putting the Lions in front by 27-26.
  That go-ahead score was followed by Harrell's hit out of bounds on Basanez, who had come up several yards short on a third-down scramble to the Wildcats' 10. "I thought it was borderline," Harrell said. "It was a stupid play," defensive end Tamba Hali said.
  After Northwestern (2-2) capitalized on the break, Penn State, trailing by 29-27, began its game-winning drive at its 20 with three time-outs and 2:10 left.
  The Lions used their first time-out just before the crucial fourth-and-15 conversion. From the press-level coaches' aerie came the call: "Four vertical."
  "Smolko has probably got the most reliable hands on the team," Robinson said. "He said, 'Mike, just give me a half a second and I'll be open.' It was a great play call, and Isaac did a great job of getting there and making the catch. The safety stayed with Derrick, and the middle was open."
  And so a team that is growing in confidence as it attempts to return the Penn State program to its once accustomed place in the collegiate heavens, finds itself unbeaten going into a winnable Big Ten game at home against Minnesota on Saturday.
  "There's one quote I live by from Frederick Douglass: 'There can be no progress without struggle,' " said Robinson, talking about yesterday's confidence-bolstering victory. "And that's how this team thinks. We stuck together.
  "But, you know, this isn't the Rose Bowl. This is our first Big Ten win. We've got to move on from here."
  Notes: Linebacker Dan Connor and center E.Z. Smith returned to the field after their disciplinary suspensions, with both seeing considerable playing time. "It means so much having Dan back," linebacker Paul Posluszny said......Posluszny was spectacular. He was credited with 22 tackles - the highest total for a Nittany Lion in 20 years......Freshman Kevin Kelly, from Neshaminy, booted second-half field goals of 25 and 28 yards for Penn State......Jordan Norwood, another freshman, was the Lions' leading receiver, catching five passes for 83 yards.

PENN STATE
INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS
Rushing Att Gain Lost Net TD LG
Hunt 13 99 0 99 0 36
Robinson 9 65 5 60 1 34
King 1 43 0 43 0 43
Williams 3 11 2 9 0 6
TEAM 1 0 2 -2 0 0
 
Passing Att Comp INT Yds TD LG
Robinson 36 17 3 271 3 37
 
Receiving No. Yds TD LG
Norwood 5 83 0 31
Butler 4 61 1 26
Hunt 4 28 0 16
Williams 2 42 1 36
King 1 37 1 37
Smolko 1 20 0 20
 
Punting No. Yds AVG LG In20
Kapinos 2 98 49.0 49 2
 
Returns PR KOR INTR
Williams - 3-78 -
Scirrotto 1-12 - -
Lowry 1-3 - -
McDonald - 1-20 -
Phillips - - 1-7
 
Field Goal Attempts
Kelly 3rd 10:08 25 yds Good
Kelly 4th 14:13 28 yds Good
 
Defense T TFL S Int. FF FR
Posluszny 14-8-22 - - - - -
Lowry 7-5-12 - - - - -
Shaw 4-4-8 - - - - -
Harrell 4-4-8 - - - - -
Rice 3-5-8 1.0-4 - - - -
Starting Lineups
NORTHWESTERN
INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS
Rushing Att Gain Lost Net TD LG
Sutton 32 113 1 112 2 16
Basanez 21 72 18 54 0 12
Pederson 1 19 0 19 0 19
Hamlett 2 10 0 10 0 9
Fields 1 3 0 3 0 3
 
Passing Att Comp INT Yds TD LG
Basanez 38 20 1 229 0 38
 
Receiving No. Yds TD LG
Herbert 7 47 0 18
Fields 4 70 0 38
Sutton 3 32 0 14
Philmore 3 27 0 12
Abernathy 1 20 0 20
Lane 1 17 0 17
Thompson 1 16 0 16    
 
Punting No. Yds AVG LG In20
Pederson 3 103 34.3 37 0
 
Returns PR KOR INTR
Cole - - 1-21
Simpson - - 1-10
Kadela - - 1-7
Hamlett - 5-107 -
 
Field Goal Attempts
Howells 1st 02:06 20 yds Good
Howells 2nd 14:56 25 yds Good
Howells 2nd 06:34 42 yds Good
Howells 3rd 01:34 46 yds Missed
Howells 4th 10:15 46 yds Good
Howells 4th 02:10 25 yds Good
 
Defense T TFL S Int. FF FR
McGarigle 7-2-9 1.0-2 - - - -
Smith 3-6-9 - - - - -
Henderson 7-1-8 1.0-2 - - - -
McPherson 1-5-6 - - - - -
Simpson 1-4-5 - - 1-10 - -
TEAM STATISTICS
  PSU NU
FIRST DOWNS 21 24
Rushing 7 10
Passing 14 11
Penalty 0 3
NET YARDS RUSHING 209 198
Rushing Attempts 27 57
Yards Gained Rushing 218 217
Yards Lost Rushing 9 19
NET YARD PASSING 271 229
Passes Attempted 36 38
Passes Completed 17 20
Had Intercepted 3 1
TOTAL OFFENSIVE PLAYS 63 95
TOTAL NET YARDS 480 427
Avg. Gain Per Play 7.6 4.5
Fumbles: No. - Lost 4-1 1-1
Penalties: No. - Yds. 5-50 6-35
No. of Punts - Yards 2-98 3-103
Avg. Per Punt 49.0 34.3
Punt Returns: No. - Yds. 2-15 0-0
Kickoff Returns: No. - Yds. 4-98 5-107
Interceptions: No. - Yds. 1-7 3-38
Fumble Returns: No. - Yds. 0-0 0-0
Miscellaneous Yards 0 0
Possession Time 20:01 39:59
3rd Down Conversion 6 of 13 12 of 24
4th Down Conversion 2 of 2 2 of 2
Sacks By: No. - Yds. 2-8 1-3
 
PSU PARTICIPANTS (50) - 1 A. Phillips, 2 Williams, 3 Butler, 4 Golden, 4 Scirrotto, 6 Johnson, 7 King, 9 Ganter, 10 Lowry, 12 Robinson, 13 Alford, 19 Kubic, 20 Shaw, 21 Zemaitis, 22 Hardy, 23 Kelly, 24 McCready, 24 Norwood, 25 Perretta, 26 Hunt, 27 Harrell, 29 Cronin, 30 Snow, 31 Posluszny, 33 Scott, 34 Hahn, 35 Zwierzynski, 36 Kapinos, 37 Ridenhor, 40 Connor, 41 Paxson, 43 Kilmer, 44 Hall, 46 Sales, 47 Gaines, 50 Richardson, 51 Cianciolo, 55 Rice, 57 Shipley, 59 Rush, 66 Antolick, 67 Brown, 68 Wilson, 74 Reed, 77 Smith, 81 Smolko, 84 McDonald, 86 Lucian, 91 Hali, 99 Shaw.