|Score by Quarters
||PSU - Kevin Kelly 29-yard field goal
||PSU - Kevin Kelly 44-yard field goal
||PSU - Tony Hunt 2-yard run (pass failed)
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- It was bound to happen, sooner or later. No matter
how hard Penn State's defense kept coming, no matter how hard the late
autumn wind whipped through Ross-Ade Stadium, no matter that the game
had already been decided. Purdue would eventually score, somehow, some
way. Except, the Boilermakers didn't.
"We always think about a shutout," said Penn State defensive
tackle Jay Alford. "But I think it came into play when it was the
middle of the fourth quarter, and we knew we could get it"
On a day when they needed a win perhaps more than they ever have
this season, the Nittany Lions (6-3, 4-2 Big Ten) got precisely that Saturday,
stunning a crowd of 58,025 and the Boilermakers (5-4, 2-3) with a 12-0
win, marking both Penn State's first shutout in four years and the first
time a Joe Tiller-coached team had ever been blanked.
"That's an unbelievable accomplishment for our defense"
said linebacker Dan Connor, who led the Penn State charge with a game-high
12 tackles and added an interception. "We should have a lot of pride
The defense, which held the nation's fourth-ranked passing offense
to just 178 yards and the Big Ten's top total offense to 240, about 200
yards less than average, earned that pride Saturday. But it also had some
help -- if it wasn't entirely evident on the scoreboard -- from its beleaguered
Behind 178 total yards and a touchdown from senior tailback Tony
Hunt, the Nittany Lion offense chewed up 35 minutes and 22 seconds of
the clock, giving Purdue just seven possessions through the first three
quarters. The Penn State defense, special teams and a persistent bluster
did the rest.
"A lot of things went our way," said Penn State coach
Joe Paterno, whose team is now bowl eligible for the second straight season.
Hunt's 2-yard touchdown run with 12:36 to play put the game out
of reach, but it turned out all the Lions needed was the 29-yard field
goal Kevin Kelly made on the game's opening drive. The Lions forced three
turnovers and were fortunate enough -- despite four fumbles and several
dropped would-be Purdue interceptions -- to commit just one of their own.
Penn State also racked up 80 yards on nine penalties, but the defense
simply wouldn't break.
"It just builds our confidence" said Penn State safety
Anthony Scirrotto, who made his third interception in two weeks. "We've
got a lot of momentum going right now. We're playing with a lot of intensity,
and that's what you need for a successful defense."
The Lions took the opening kickoff and, into a wind that at times
gusted up to 40 miles per hour, drove 74 yards in 12 plays. Derrick Williams
dropped what would have been a first-down reception on 3rd-and-5 from
the Purdue 12-yard line, but Kelly's 29-yarder was true.
Penn State wouldn't score again until Kelly made a 44-yard field
goal as the first half expired, but Connor's interception of Curtis Painter
at Penn State's 18-yard line late in the first quarter stalled one Boilermaker
drive, a missed 37-yard field goal try by Chris Summers another, and a
17-play Penn State drive that covered just 46 yards (and, when Kelly missed
a 50-yard attempt, earned no points) ate up nearly seven minutes of the
second quarter. That drive neatly summed up Penn State's offensive approach
on the day - run Hunt, control the clock and take the wind out of the
"Right from the first quarter, we controlled the line of scrimmage,"
said right tackle John Shaw. "We kept that positive attitude going
into the fourth quarter and kept pounding it down their throat."
The Lions, who had rushed for minus-14 and 40 yards, respectively,
in their last two games, churned out 240 against Purdue. Hunt was again
the workhorse, with 142 yards on 31 carries, but Rodney Kinlaw, Williams
and fullbacks BranDon Snow and Matt Hahn combined for 106 more.
Purdue tailbacks Kory Sheets and Jaycen Taylor had just seven carries
apiece, and though Painter hit his average of 39 passing attempts, he
completed just 22. Dorien Bryant, the Big Ten's leading receiver entering
the game, had 5 yards on five catches, and the Boilermakers dropped several
passes while going both with and against the wind. With a firm breeze
tugging at every deep ball, Purdue shortened its routes, and the Penn
State defensive backs took advantage.
"They played a lot tighter coverage than we saw on film,"
Painter said. "It wasn't anything we shouldn't have been able to
handle, but when a team does play tight coverage, our passing windows
close up a lot more quickly."
Penn State quarterback Anthony Morelli (14-of-31, 182 yards, no
touchdowns or interceptions) was the victim of several early dropped passes
from his own receivers and the beneficiary of several dropped interceptions
by the Boilermakers.
Instead of faking the run to set up the pass, Morelli often faked
a throw before sticking the ball into Hunt's midsection. He did that eight
times during a 12-play, 80-yard drive that bridged the third and fourth
quarters. Plunging through tacklers every time, Hunt picked up 58 of those
yards, including the final two into the end zone.
Morelli overthrew Jordan Norwood on the 2-point conversion attempt,
but Penn State had a two-score lead and the wind, and the defense only
"We did take a chance with the wind in the fourth quarter,"
said Penn State defensive coordinator Tom Bradley. "Joe said, 'Let's
kick it so they have to go into the wind, and you guys take care of it.'"
They did. It was the Lions' first shutout since a 49-0 win on Oct.
19, 2002 against Northwestern and their first road shutout since a 31-0
blanking of Iowa on Sept. 18, 1993. Purdue was shutout for the first time
since a 35-0 loss to Notre Dame on Sept. 14, 1996, the season before Tiller
came to West Lafayette.
Afterward, a reporter asked Paterno why the Lions, who played so
conservatively throughout, went to a hurry-up offense in the final minutes
of the second quarter.
"I wanted to score," Paterno said, laughing. "That's
the object of the game, isn't it?" Stopping the other guy works too.