Butler Scores Big in Penn State's Win

In just over a week, Penn State's redshirt freshman wide receiver has gone from being one of the lesser-known members of the Nittany Lion offense to a proven game-breaker who is surrounded by reporters in the Beaver Stadium Media Room.

Quarterback Michael Robinson had another strong showing in Penn State's 40-3 win over Central Michigan at Beaver Stadium Saturday, throwing for 274 yards and three scores. Tailback Tony Hunt was effective, too, averaging 7.8 yards on 10 carries.

But if you'd like to know who energized the offense and the stadium with an electric second quarter, well, it was hardly a mystery: The … ahem … Butler did it.

Redshirt freshman Deon Butler, a former walk-on who has been on scholarship for all of three months, had touchdown catches of 54 and 24 yards in the second period as Penn State blew past the overmatched Chippewas. He finished with five catches for 108 yards.

“He's obviously turned out to be a good wideout,” PSU coach Joe Paterno said in what may qualify as the understatement of the young season.

In a game where the Penn State defense was at its ferocious best, getting eight sacks and allowing 172 total yards, it was fitting that Butler was a key figure on offense. He played defensive back on the foreign team while redshirting as a true freshman.

He made the move to wideout in the off-season because the staff felt his speed and aggressive play — along with similar traits from incoming frosh Derrick Williams and Justin King — would help revive the program's moribund passing attack.

Through the non-conference portion of the schedule, everything has gone as planned for the receiver and the 3-0 Lions.

Butler's two scores Saturday came 2:35 apart. By comparison, no full-time Lion receiver had more than one TD catch in the entire 2004 season and no PSU player had caught two scoring strikes in a game since Tony Johnson did it vs. Indiana in 2003.

Butler's emergence has surprised many. But not the redshirt freshman or his teammates.

“I was there throughout spring practice, so I saw myself work up the depth chart,” Butler explained. “But I'm just glad I'm able to contribute this early in the season.”

“He's trying to find his way as a young guy, and he's hungry to make plays,” defensive back Anwar Phillips said. “You're going to hear about him for the next four years.”

Though Paterno has been raving about him for months — “Butler came up all the time as a kid I shouldn't have held out [last season],” the coach said — he was hardly a household name before making a diving, 45-yard TD catch against Cincinnati last week.

But now he's being swarmed by reporters in the Media Room and he even had his own conference call during the week.

“I definitely enjoy it, but I try to stay humble,” Butler said. “I had a little bit of media in high school, but nothing like this. Just talking to the older guys … I try to take tips from them and be glad I have the opportunity. And next year, it might lessen the load, when they release Derrick and Justin to the media.”

Speaking of which, Butler said while Williams and King have one TD between them, you can expect them to get in on the act soon enough.

“It's not like Derrick hasn't been making big plays,” Butler said. “He just hasn't sniffed the end zone. He's going to find it sooner or later. Other guys are making big plays, too. If [defenses] want to come and focus on me, Derrick's gonna have a field day. People know what Derrick and Justin can do. … If they want to focus on one guy, that's an opportunity for another guy to step up.”

This from a guy who received his opportunity. And stepped up.


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