Still smarting from their 24-3 loss at the No. 1 Crimson Tide a week earlier, the Nittany Lions came out and grabbed firm control early against Kent State at Beaver Stadium Saturday. No. 22 PSU led 14-0 before most folks had settled into their seats.
The bad news is that the 2-1 Lions did not show a killer instinct, as they failed to build on their lead until late in the fourth quarter before easing their way to a 24-0 victory.
Rookie quarterback Rob Bolden personified Penn State's effort, looking terrific at times (completing 17 of 27 for 217 yards and a score) but also being intercepted twice and forcing the ball into traffic in at least two other instances.
Here is the rest of what went down at Beaver Stadium Saturday.
MEN OF THE HOUR: We give a tip of the cap to the defense as a whole, which allowed no points and only 228 yards while forcing three turnovers.
CLOSE SECOND: Little wideout Devon Smith had a big day, with three catches for 61 yards and his first career TD (a 48-yarder). He also returned one punt for 16 yards. The only negative play he was involved in was not his fault -- the questionable second-quarter reverse the staff called on which Smith was thrown for a 10-yard loss.
CLOSE THIRD: Wideout Derek Moye had four catches for 87 yards and continues to look the part of a potential All-American.
TURNING POINT: Cornerback D'Anton Lynn disguised coverage nicely to come up with an interception on KSU's first drive of the game. The Lions parlayed their first takeaway of the season into a short-field touchdown to go up 7-0 and never seemed seriously threatened.
SOLID STRATEGY: Up 14-0, Penn State monkeyed around with the offense throughout the second quarter (more on this later). The Lions came to their senses in the third quarter, using the power running attack to -- finally -- put the game away.
NUMBERS GAME: Penn State held a 34:21-25:39 edge in time of possession overall and had the ball for 11:35 in the third quarter.
BUSINESS AS USUAL: The Nittany Lions' offensive line has yet to surrender a sack this season.
SPECIAL DELIVERY: Anthony Fera averaged 46 yards on three punts and had touchbacks on three of five kickoffs. If he can stay consistent, he'll be a real weapon for PSU this year.
HEADS UP: Late in the second quarter, Golden Flash wideout Sam Kirland could not hang on to a deep pass from Spencer Keith. PSU redshirt freshman cornerback Derrick Thomas came up with the interception to preserve the Lions' 14-0 lead going into the break.
WHAT'S UP WITH?
Penn State's offensive play-calling in the second quarter. By our count, the Lions had 17 offensive plays and handed the ball to a tailback on exactly two of them. This while leading 14-0 and with an offensive line looking to build consistency in its rush blocking.
Tailback Evan Royster, who went over 3,000 career yards in the first half, effectively being benched in the second half. He had three carries after the break, one a fumble and the other two for a total of four yards. Paterno said he wanted to see more of Stephfon Green, which we're sure is part true.
Royster's terrible body language while on the sideline. Maybe we're reading too much into things, but by the middle of the fourth quarter his helmet was off and his arms were crossed. He was the second player off the field, running to the tunnel as soon as the game ended.
Penn State tight ends still not having a catch on the season. As an aside, projected starter Andrew Szczerba did not even suit up for the third straight game due to a back injury. He has not practiced since the spring.
HIT SQUAD: Cornerback Josh Pleasant drilled Bolden near the sideline late in the second quarter. The quarterback, who finished off a 17-yard scramble, got the best of it, though, as he popped right up. Pleasant required assistance to get up. While this worked out OK for Bolden, we think the QB should use a little more common sense on such plays from here on out.
HIDDEN HERO: Corner Stephon Morris finished with a team-high nine tackles, even though he missed a couple of plays after being pulled for missing a stop. He also hobbled off the field with a painful foot that slowed him in practice during the week, but returned after missing only one snap.
LOST IN THE SHUFFLE: Senior wideout Graham Zug finally got off the schnide with his first two catches of the season.
DID YOU NOTICE?
Pete Massaro and Sean Stanley started at defensive end, replacing Jack Crawford and Eric Latimore, respectively. Coaches said the former starters both missed practice time during the week, which led to the change. But Crawford and Latimore both played, with the former registering his first sack of the year.
Andrew Dailey replaced Drew Astorino at strong safety in Penn State's base defense during the game. Coordinator Tom Bradley said it was because Astorino missed tackles. Astorino continued to play safety in nickel situations.
UNANSWERED QUESTION: Was the Penn State defense that good or was the Kent State offense that bad?