|Score by Quarters
||UND - Carl Gioia 35-yard field goal
||UND - Carl Gioia 35-yard field goal
||UND - Jeff Samardzija 7-yard pass from Quinn (Gioia
||UND - Rhema McKnight 9-yard pass from Quinn (Gioia
||UND - Tom Zbikowski 25-yard fumble recovery (Gioia kick)
||PSU - Kevin Kelly 28-yard field goal
||UND - Travis Thomas 1-yard run (Gioia kick)
||UND - Darius Walker 15-yard pass from Quinn (Gioia kick)
||PSU - Deon Butler 2-yard pass from Morelli (Kelly kick)
||PSU - Daryll Clark 5-yard run (Kelly kick)
SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- The number of bodies doing push-ups atop a blue
sea of Notre Dame students steadily increased as the balmy September
evening closed in on Notre Dame Stadium.
So too did the number of push-ups,
each representing a Fighting Irish point.
The game that Penn State fans
had waited a decade for turned slowly but surely into a nightmare Saturday. No.
4 Notre Dame used about a 30-minute
stretch of terrific all-around football to pull away from No. 19 Penn
State in a 41-17 drubbing before 80,795 fans.
"I went into this thing thinking it would be a good experience
for the young guys,'' Penn State coach Joe Paterno said, "that regardless
of what the outcome would be that we'd be a better football team for
it. Obviously, I hoped we would play better than we played.''
If this was
a learning experience for Paterno's team, consider a lot of material
The young Nittany Lions (1-1) hung with the experienced Irish (2-0)
for the first 23 minutes before Notre Dame quarterback Brady Quinn (25-of-36,
287 yards, three touchdowns) began to assert himself. Keeping steady
pressure on the Penn State defense, Quinn led the Irish on touchdown
drives of 75 and 69 yards during the final eight minutes of the half
to put his team ahead 20-0 at halftime.
It snowballed from there.
Lions quarterback Anthony Morelli, who had
completed six of his eight first-half passes for 53 yards, made a poor decision
on an option play
on the opening drive of the fourth quarter. His errant pitch bounced
up into the waiting arms of Irish safety Tom Zbikowski, who raced 25
yards into the end zone for a 27-0 lead.
"I was trying to do too much,''
admitted Morelli, who had a solid afternoon in his first road start (21-of-33,
189 yards, one interception)
but couldn't lead the offense inside the Notre Dame 10-yard line until
late in the fourth quarter.
The Penn State offensive line, maligned for
a mediocre performance against Akron the week before, sprung tailback Tony
Hunt, who quietly tallied
120 total yards on 15 touches, for 74 yards rushing. But the rest of
Penn State's versatile attack mainly misfired. Jordan Norwood led the
team for the second straight week with six catches for 91 yards, but
receivers Derrick Williams, Deon Butler and Chris Bell combined for just
44 yards on seven catches. Facing a huge deficit and a Notre Dame defense
that gained confidence as the lead grew, the Nittany Lions pressed.
"We tried to get it back all on one play,'' Butler said. "We
didn't have to. We could have methodically went down the field, but our
offense is kind of a big-strike offense, so it's kind of hard to take
that mentality away.''
While Morelli and the offense were stumbling, Quinn
was giving the defense fits. Finding tight ends down the seam, wide receiver
near the sideline or tailback Darius Walker on dumps over the middle,
he slowly wore down a Penn State defense that wasn't getting enough help
from its offense and wasn't getting enough pressure on Quinn. Yards that
were hard to come by in the first quarter were eaten up chunks at a time
as the game wore on.
"Toward the end of the first half,'' said Paterno of his defense, "we
were really hanging on.''
But as the second quarter began, the Irish didn't look much like
a team that began the season at No. 2 in the polls, though Penn State couldn't
make them pay. Quinn led Notre Dame inside the Penn State 20 on two of the
Irish's first three possessions, but third-down incompletions stalled both
drives, and Notre Dame had to settle for a pair of 35-yard field goals from
kicker Carl Gioia.
Then, on a 3rd-and-2 from his own 33, Quinn found Samardzija for a 26-yard
gain, and the Irish didn't look back. A 32-yard strike to tight end John Carlson,
a 10-yard run by Walker and a brilliant pass to the back of the end zone, where
the leaping Samardzija grabbed it for a 7-yard touchdown, capped a furious 75-yard
drive that put Penn State on the ropes.
"The good thing about Brady, he's the same every week,'' said Notre
Dame coach Charlie Weis. "This guy has a passion to be great. He practices
that way. He practices to win. He's not one of the guys who goes through the
motions. There's not one day of practice where this kid isn't practicing to win.''
Penn State had to answer, and it nearly did on the next possession.
Hunt grabbed a screen pass with room to run, and he scampered all the
way to the 22-yard line. Center A.Q. Shipley was whistled for a clip, though,
negating the play, and the Lions' drive stalled.
Quinn then effectively put the game out of reach. With 1:24 left in the
half, he completed all five of his passes for 58 yards, the last a 9-yard touchdown
strike to a wide-open Rhema McKnight. The first three passes, one to Carlson,
two to Walker, beat Paul Posluszny, who made 12 tackles Saturday but lacked the
burst that made him the nation's top linebacker last season.
With the score 27-0, a 28-yard scramble from Morelli on third down put
Penn State in field goal range, and the Nittany Lions finally got on the board
with a 33-yard field goal from Kevin Kelly with 11:29 left in the third. A 2-yard
touchdown pass from Morelli to Butler and a 5-yard scoring run from backup quarterback
Daryll Clark, who led a fine drive in the game's final minutes, was all Penn
State could muster.
The Irish were simply more efficient and opportunistic in every phase
of the game. Four Notre Dame receivers -- Walker, Carlson, Samardzija and McKnight
-- had at least five catches Saturday. Linebacker and backup tailback Travis
Thomas scampered for 43 yards on a fake punt return, and Zbikowski, who made
seven tackles, forced a fumble in addition to the one he scooped up.
The Nittany Lions, who host Division I-AA Youngstown State on Saturday,
were frustrated. But they also knew that there would be rough patches in the
early part of the season.
Maybe not this rough.
"We've got to learn, we've got to take everything we can and learn," said
linebacker Sean Lee. "We've got to take the negative and turn it into a
positive somehow. We got whooped today, and I think we're a lot better team because
Paterno was quick to credit Weis and Notre Dame's coaching staff, though
he said his own team made too many mistakes.
"I think most things are correctable,'' said Paterno, who fell to
8-6 against Notre Dame, "but we'll have to see.''