Penn State at Northwestern 10-31-09

October 31, 2009


(12) Penn State (7-1) at Northwestern (5-3)

Saturday, October 31st, 4:30 p.m. (et)

GAME NOTES: The 12th-ranked Penn State Nittany Lions march into Evanston, where they will hook up with the Northwestern Wildcats in Big Ten action this weekend at Ryan Field.

The Lions are coming off another solid win, as they defeated Michigan, 35-10, on the road this past weekend.

“Overall, I think everybody just made up their mind that we were going to show people we were a pretty good football team, and they came out here and played well,” said head coach Joe Paterno.

The win was PSU’s first in Ann Arbor since 1996, as the Lions improved to 6-1 over their last seven road games dating back to last season. Winners of four straight, the Lions are certainly on a roll as they gear up for a date with Ohio State next weekend.

For the Wildcats, they are coming off a more dramatic win, using a late field goal to rally for a 29-28 win over Indiana last weekend. Northwestern overcame a 25-point deficit, the largest in program history, for its third win in four games.

“Wow, what a game,” said head coach Pat Fitzgerald. “It was the tale of two halves. I thought at halftime we made some subtle adjustments in all three phases and our players did a good job taking to those adjustments and went out and made it happen.”

Northwestern is now 5-3 on the campaign, but is facing its toughest stretch, with the team’s final four opponents owning a combined record of 21-9.

The Wildcats and Lions are clashing for just the 13th time on the gridiron and the first since 2006, with PSU holding a 9-3 lead in the head-to-head series.

The Lions turned in a complete performance on offense last weekend, as they rushed for 166 yards and threw for 230, while avoiding any turnovers in a win at Michigan. Quarterback Daryll Clark was terrific in the win and he completed 16-of-27 pass attempts for 230 yards and four touchdowns.

“I thought [Daryll] Clark played a great game,” said Paterno. “In all fairness I don’t think Daryll’s received the credit he should have, because he’s really played great football. People have been critical of him, but people didn’t catch the ball.”

Clark is in the midst of a rather noteworthy campaign and he has completed 62.1 percent of his tosses, with 17 touchdowns against seven interceptions. He also has four rushing scores, giving him 55 career touchdowns, the most by any PSU player.

Spreading out the ball has helped make Clark successful, as four players have already caught at least 20 passes. Derek Moye leads the team with 33 receptions and 525 yards, while Graham Zug is tops with five touchdown catches. Against Michigan, Zug was the player who shined with five catches for 59 yards and three touchdowns.

Evan Royster even enjoyed success last weekend, as he rushed for 100 yards on 20 carries. It was the fourth 100-yard effort this season by Royster, who has rushed for 741 yards, helping PSU average a solid 184.4 ypg on the ground this year.

PSU leads the nation in scoring defense, allowing just 8.9 ppg, and it has held six of its first eight opponents to 10 points or less for the first time since the 1973 season. The unit is giving up a mere 240.2 total ypg, including a measly 79.8 rushing ypg, and the group has also recorded 26 sacks.

The Lions’ defense was all over Michigan last weekend and surrendered only 250 total yards. The unit notched four takeaways and five sacks, while holding Michigan to just a 3-of-15 effort on third downs.

Navorro Bowman had a big game in the win, finishing with 11 tackles, a fumble recover, interception and sack. He now has 44 stops, including nine for losses, in six games, proving he is an top linebacker.

“So I think that there’s no question he’s a fine linebacker,” said Paterno. “He’s one of the better linebackers in the country. And I hope we can keep him healthy.”

Stefan Demos nailed a 19-yard field goal with 21 seconds left to play, as the Wildcats scored 26-unanswered points to edge Indiana, 29-28, over the weekend. Northwestern trailed 28-3 midway through the second quarter before taking over and it drove 65 yards in 6:43 to set up the game-wining field goal.

The Wildcats fell behind early due to some mistakes, as quarterback Mike Kafka was picked off three times. He, however, rebounded by throwing for 312 yards and two scores and rushing for 65 yards and a third touchdown.

“I take responsibility for all of them, without a doubt,” said Kafka about the interceptions. “It’s definitely something we can fix up and clean up for next week and it’s obviously great to get the win and be able to have an opportunity to learn from those mistakes.””

Kafka has had some issues with turnovers this season, but he is a huge part of this offense and has completed 66.1 percent of his throws for 2,067 yards. He is also the team’s top rusher with 206 yards and five touchdowns to his credit. Northwestern is averaging 392.6 total ypg behind Kafka, who will need to be sharp against PSU’s stout defense this weekend.

Zeke Markshausen is Kafka’s main outlet with 58 catches and 553 yards, but Andrew Brewer is also dangerous, racking up 519 receiving yards and five scores. Last weekend, both players hauled in eight passes and a touchdown and they combined for 229 receiving yards.

Northwestern’s defense had some struggles early on last weekend, but came on strong and held Indiana without a point in the second half. The unit gave up just 305 total yards, below its season average of 338.1 ypg, and limited Indiana to only 13 first downs and even came up with a crucial goal line stand.

“The defense pitched a shutout with a big fourth down play down at the goal line and getting us off the field,” said coach Fitzgerald.

The defense however, didn’t come up with any takeaways and managed just one sack and that was surprising. The Wildcats have forced 18 turnovers and recorded 20 sacks this season, so they obviously can make big plays.

Quentin Davie heads the defense with 59 stops, eight TFLs and four sacks and he had six tackles last weekend.

PSU is rolling along, but the Wildcats have a lot to play for and should give the Lions all they can handle. The Lions’ defense should make the difference, although Northwestern could hang around if Kafka can do a better job of protecting the ball. Penn State will Roll!!!!

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