|Score by Quarters
||PSU - Kevin Kelly 27-yard field goal
||PUR - Curtis Painter 24-yard run (Jones kick)
||PSU - Kevin Kelly 25-yard field goal
||PSU - Michael Robinson 1-yard run (Kelly kick)
||PSU - Kevin Kelly 33-yard field goal
||PSU - BranDon Snow 2-yard run (Kelly kick)
||PUR - Brandon Kirsch 4-yard run (Bryant rush)
||PSU - Kevin Kelly 22-yard field goal
||PSU - BranDon Snow 4-yard run (Kelly kick)
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - In a darkened Beaver Stadium corridor, Tony Hunt
walked past Joe Paterno just as the coach was rolling up a khaki pantleg
even farther than normal to display the fresh bruise that left him moaning
Penn State was fortunate that the conditions of the men's legs
On a day when Paterno got steamrolled by a lineman during warm-ups,
Hunt did the same thing to Purdue's defense, particularly at a critical
juncture of the fourth quarter, in a 33-15 Penn State victory that delighted
a chilled homecoming crowd of 109,467.
The relentless junior tailback from Alexandria, Va., collected
129 yards on 24 carries, virtually dragging the sluggish Nittany Lions
(8-1 overall, 5-1 conference) past stubborn Purdue (2-6, 0-5).
"He's the toughest runner I ever saw," fullback Brandon
Snow, who had a pair of short second-half rushing touchdowns, said of
Thanks to Hunt's leg-driving gallops against a tiring defense,
Penn State kept alive its dreams of a Big Ten title and a berth in what
would be the first BCS game of Paterno's career. Both goals may be determined
Saturday, when the Lions host Wisconsin (8-1, 5-1).
Hunt's fourth 100-yard game of the season was essential on a day
when the passing game that has carried Penn State never got rolling. Michael
Robinson, who was under constant pressure and kept sailing his passes
over the heads of receivers on the windy stadium floor, completed just
13 of 29 throws for 213 yards and no touchdowns.
But Penn State's defense and run game (Robinson picked up 96 yards
and wideout Justin King another 56 on options and reverses) provided the
"Last year, we'd hang close in games, but we couldn't put
together those big plays when we needed them," safety Chris Harrell
said. "We'd been getting them from our passing game this year, and
today we got it from the running game."
An indication of just how far Penn State has progressed in a year
could be found in the postgame rushing statistics. The Lions accumulated
303 yards on the ground, exactly 285 more than they managed in a 20-13
loss to Purdue a year ago. And they needed them.
"We let them hang around and hang around and hang around,"
Paterno said of Purdue, "but then Tony had a couple of big runs."
None was bigger than the first play after Boilermakers quarterback
Brandon Kirsch's 4-yard touchdown run cut Penn State's lead to 23-15 with
9 minutes, 50 seconds left.
Hunt took a handoff, exploded past a few tacklers, entered a human
pileup, and somehow emerged into open field, the 26-yard gain giving the
Lions a first down on Purdue's 42.
"That was a huge play," center E.Z. Smith said. "They
were feeling pretty good about themselves after that touchdown and Tony
came right out and answered them. He's just one of those backs that's really
hard to bring down."
Seven plays later, freshman Kevin Kelly booted his fourth field goal
of the day - a 22-yarder - and the Nittany Lions again had a two-possession
lead, 26-15, with just 5:41 remaining.
After that, the Boilermakers, who now have lost six straight, threw
up the white flag. Hunt gained 29 yards on a subsequent fourth-quarter drive
that concluded with Snow's second touchdown, this one from 4 yards out with
1:37 to play.
"It was a very physical game, and you could see their defense
was getting a little tired in the fourth quarter," Hunt said. "A
lot of 4-yard gains were turning into 10-yard gains."
Penn State finished with 516 yards of total offense, but until the
fourth quarter, the Lions had difficulty turning those yards into points.
Three long first-half drives yielded only short Kelly field goals of 27,
25 and 33 yards. They were sandwiched around a 1-yard Robinson scoring run.
Chris Painter's 24-yard run a play after Calvin Lowry fumbled a punt
was Purdue's only score in a half that ended with Penn State on top, 16-7.
Snow's 2-yard plunge less than three minutes into the second half
made it 23-7. His two-touchdown day was an anomaly for a fullback who came
into the game with three carries on the season.
"He's a good friend. He's a good football player and he blocks
for me," Hunt said. "I think he should be rewarded."
The typically swarming defense held Purdue, which replaced Painter
with Kirsch in the second half, to just 277 total yards. And on special
teams, kamikaze man Ethan Kilmer had so many tackles that he wound up with
the Lions' third-highest total - even though he didn't play a down on defense.
"He's so fast," Harrell said of the transfer from Shippensburg.
"He gets down there almost before the ball does."
And so Paterno will prepare for his team's pre-bye-week Big Ten tussle
with Wisconsin on a badly aching leg.
"I'm not getting old," Paterno insisted to reporters as
he crumpled into his seat at the postgame podium. "I just got run over
in pregame warm-ups."
On this day, there were plenty of Purdue defenders who knew exactly
how he felt.