The Butler Did It: WR Leads Lions

Sophomore receiver Deon Butler's record-setting day helped Penn State destroy Northwestern Saturday. The Lions overcame a slow start to win going away in improving to 3-2 on the season and 1-1 in the Big Ten.

Deon Butler had only eight receptions on the season going into Penn State's game with Northwestern at Beaver Stadium Saturday. Against the Wildcats, he made 11 catches and came away with a school record as he teamed with running back Tony Hunt to fuel a 33-7 blowout.

Butler finished with 216 receiving yards, breaking O.J. McDuffie's single-game record of 212 yards (set against Boston College in 1992). After the game, McDuffie called to offer congratulations.

“At first, he said he was mad; but he was laughing, joking,” Butler said. “But then he said he couldn't have thought of a better guy to give it to and that meant a lot to me. … Watching the old tapes of him and just trying to mimic some of my routes after guys like him and the respect he has; it meant a lot for him to say that to me after the game.”

Butler and quarterback Anthony Morelli hooked up on several bombs, including a 55-yarder that was a career long for both of them. Hunt was strong, too, grinding out 137 yards and three scores, and moving past Lenny Moore into 11th place on State's career rushing list (2,459).

Despite the individual accomplishments, however, the Penn State offense struggled in the first half, managing just three field goals and a Hunt fumble on its first four trips to the red zone for a 9-0 lead. Even the team's first touchdown took considerable effort, as Hunt's 1-yard dive late in the second quarter came after four plays from inside the NU 5-yard line.

That score gave PSU a 16-7 lead at the break.

“It still bothers me that we wasted so many opportunities in the first half, and that killed us early,” PSU coach Joe Paterno said.

Northwestern's one touchdown was set up following Nick Roach's interception of a Morelli pass with 9:19 left in the second quarter. With the ball at the Penn State 16, Tyrell Sutton rushed for three yards, but Penn State linebacker Paul Posluszny was flagged for a late hit, moving the ball to the Lion 7.

The Wildcats punched it in on an option right on a fourth and one as Sutton beat Posluszny to the goal line with 7:31 remaining, cutting the lead to 9-7.

Except for that short-field drive, PSU's defense kept Sutton and Northwestern's spread offense in check, as NU managed just 238 yards of total offense vs. Penn State's 528. Wildcat quarterback Andrew Brewer struggled in his first career start, completing just five of 11 passes for 68 yards.

“I have mixed feelings,” Paterno said of the game. “When you blow as many chances as we did the first half, unless your defense plays a heck of a football game, you're probably going to get licked.”

Kelly tacked on another field goal in the third quarter to make it 19-7. Later, Penn State had a short-field drive of its own, going 29 yards in three plays, with Hunt scoring from 14 yards to make it 26-7.

Late in the third, sophomore linebacker Sean Lee intercepted Brewer, dragging his feet just inbounds. Six plays later, Hunt broke free for a six-yard score and a 33-7 lead.

Lee's nifty pick had the other Penn State linebackers shaking their heads.

“He reminded us he's a great athlete and that he played every [position] in high school,” Posluszny said while laughing. “That was a great play.”

Halfway through the fourth quarter, Brewer was hit by Tim Shaw and lost the ball. Defensive tackle Jay Alford returned the apparent fumble for a touchdown. As he crossed into the end zone, he did a flip and landed on his back. He was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct. The fumble was reviewed and ruled an incomplete pass. Paterno chewed out Alford for the violation, which cost Penn State 15 yards even though the play technically did not count.

“Is it the greatest thing that ever happened?” Paterno said after the game. “You didn't invent the wheel. I could've picked up that ball and ran it in.”

Defensive coordinator Tom Bradley was equally vehement, stating it was not “the Penn State way.”

The staff would no doubt prefer Alford took a cue from Butler. Despite accumulating more receiving yards in a single game than any Nittany Lion in history, he was more than humble after the game.

“It is something I will always cherish and will remember for the rest of my life,” he said.

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