Penn State Wins Shootout Over Northwestern, 34-24
In the third quarter, Dan Persa dropped back and threw the ball, as he did 33 other times for Northwestern against Penn State on Saturday. This time, however, the pass was deflected and intercepted by Gerald Hodges, who ran the ball 63 yards down to the Northwestern 19-yard line.
Silas Redd ran for a touchdown on the next play to put Penn State up 34-24. Neither team would score again, and Penn State improved to 7-1 overall and 4-o in the Big Ten. Northwestern fell to 2-5 overall and 0-4 in the Big Ten.
“I thought the interception was the turning point in the game for us,” coach Tom Bradley said. “He ran out of gas, so I’m sure the guys are going to give him a good ribbing when we get home.”
Penn State entered the game with the sixth best defense in the country, giving up a paltry 11.6 points per game. Northwestern eclipsed that mark just 11 minutes into the game. Offense was the name of the game in Evanston, Ill., as the teams combined for 58 points on the night.
Northwestern wasted no time in getting the scoring started. After Penn State’s Chaz Powell fumbled the kickoff return, Persa led the Wildcats to a touchdown. Persa ran for a yard on fourth-and-goal to give Northwestern an early 7-0 lead.
Matt McGloin got his first start of the season for Penn State, and he made the most of his opportunity. McGloin converted on a fourth down in the red zone before throwing a 4-yard touchdown pass to Justin Brown to tie the game at 7-7.
After Penn State got one of what would be few defensive stops in the game, it took just one play for the Nittany Lions to take the lead. McGloin threw a 45-yard touchdown pass to Devon Smith to put give Penn State a 14-7 lead.
Northwestern would find success on its next drive, however. On a drive highlighted by a 27-yard pass by Persa, the Wildcats tied the game at 14-14. Persa completed a 12-yard pass to Kain Colter for the touchdown.
The scoring continued in the second quarter, although both teams were held to some field goals. That would be the case on Penn State’s first drive of the quarter, which resulted in a 37-yard field goal for Anthony Fera to put Penn State up 17-14. Northwestern got the ball back and marched 75 yards down the field to go up 21-17 on the ensuing drive. Kain Colter scored his second touchdown of the game–this time on the ground–to put the Wildcats up 21-17.
On the next drive, Stephfon Green appeared to have scored a touchdown, but it was negated by a holding penalty on Penn State. It was the fifth time this season that the Nittany Lions had a touchdown taken away by a penalty. Fera made a 33-yard field goal to cap off the drive, bringing Penn State within one point at 21-20.
Northwestern continued to pick apart the Penn State secondary, against which Persa went 13-16 for 180 yards in the first half. After Persa threw a 54-yard pass, the Penn State defense was able to hold though, and Northwestern was forced to kick a field goal. The 25-yard kick put Northwestern up 24-20.
With just 47 seconds remaining in the half, the Nittany Lions were able get into the end zone one more time. Redd had a 42-yard run, and Green ran for a 1-yard touchdown to give Penn State a 27-24 halftime lead. Redd finished the half with 119 yards rushing on 11 attempts.
“I knew Northwestern was very capable of scoring, they score against everybody,” coach Joe Paterno said. “I figured we needed to score some points. Fortunately we did.”
The second half lacked the offensive firepower that typified the first half. Northwestern drove down the field to start the second half, but Hodges was able to intercept a deflected pass. He returned the ball 63 yards. On the next play, Redd ran for 19 yards into the end zone to give Penn State a 2-possession lead at 34-24.
Neither team would score after the Redd touchdown, but it was not for a lack of trying. Northwestern got close to scoring several times in the second half, but timely sacks kept them out of field goal range. The Nittany Lions sacked Northwestern five times in the second half, three of which came with the Wildcats in scoring position.
Jack Crawford said, “It was great. To come out as a d-line and put those kind of numbers on the board…we’re really happy with it.”
This win was Paterno’s 408th, tying him with Eddie Robinson for second place in wins for a head coach at the college level. Paterno also won his 400th game against Northwestern last season.
“There is a reason why coach Paterno is tied with Eddie Robinson; he is the best ever,” Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald said. “It is an unbelievable milestone that he was able to accomplish. I’m just kind of tired that it keeps happening against us.”
McGloin finished on 17-26 passing for 192 yards, and Silas Redd ran for a career-high 164 yards on 18 attempts. Hodges finished with 14 tackles and Smith had 110 yards and a touchdown on six catches. Next week, the Nittany Lions return home to take on Illinois.