It manufactured a scoring drive with short runs and intermediate passes. It scored on a big play.
But something was curiously absent. Anthony Morelli, Derrick Williams and Austin Scott were all on the sideline, wearing a different color jersey. Instead, it was Paul Cianciolo leading his White-clad Nittany Lions to two touchdowns, building a 13-6 halftime lead en route to a 30-6 victory in Beaver Stadium before a Blue-White record crowd of 71,000.
Penn State emphatically answered questions of depth and talent with big games from many players from whom they weren't totally expected.
I was excited just about the weather, first of all. My first dry spring game in three years, Cianciolo said. It was unbelievable having so many fans out there to watch the game. ... It was good to get the ball moving a little bit and the offense had a little bit of success out there.
After backup quarterback Daryll Clark plodded through an uneventful first quarter, Cianciolo, working with the first-team offensive line, entered and made an immediate impact. His 6-yard touchdown run over linebacker Josh Matzkin gave the White its first lead of the day, and he completed all five of his passes in the second, including a 37-yard strike to a wide-open Brendan Perretta for the White's second touchdown. Cianciolo finished with 126 passing yards and two touchdowns and misfired on only one of nine attempts.
Though defeated, Morelli's Blue featured its own share of highlights in the first half. Morelli hit Williams for an acrobatic first-quarter catch on the sideline after he avoided defensive end Eric Latimore to keep a drive alive (until a Mark Rubin interception on the White doorstep). Scott, relishing in his new role as starting tailback, led all ball-carriers with 53 yards rushing. But multiple Blue drives were stalled in the red zone, with only two Kevin Kelly field goals to show for its efforts.
Last year, I did real good, and this year I did OK, Morelli said of his spring-game showing. So maybe that's a good thing. We'll get a little further into it when it counts.
Still, it was perhaps Blue wide receiver Jordan Norwood who stole the show. He was equally productive on the ground as he was through the air, recording 51 rushing and 54 receiving yards, showing enhanced quickness and a fearlessness to go across the middle.
Norwood said that he'd like to credit his spot on the Lion basketball team in the football off-season for his lack of rust.
I'm focusing on catching the ball, running my route, things like that, Norwood said. Taking hits doesn't really cross my mind, actually, until I take it.
As always, the spring contest featured a chance for athletes looking for playing time in the fall to make a name for themselves in real-time action. White linebackers Tyrell Sales and Jerome Hayes recorded 11 and 10 tackles, respectively, each looking to earn more reps in a deep 'backer corps. Sophomore wideout Chris Bell produced the day's biggest play, making a nice catch of a Clark pass, then racing downfield for a 74-yard touchdown, his second of the game.
In the much-ballyhooed battle to replace the graduated Tony Hunt, redshirt freshman tailback Evan Royster turned heads by showcasing his elusiveness. He paced the White with 46 yards rushing and also caught two passes out of the backfield.
Though perhaps unknown to the Beaver Stadium faithful, Royster's teammates were not taken by surprise.
He's tough, linebacker Sean Lee said. He's surprisingly quick and he's surprisingly strong, too. He's really crafty and he's got great motion.
Despite the lopsided score, players from both sides felt they backed up their lofty claims that they are shooting for the sky - the national championship. Now, they believe the fans are behind them, too.
Once guys got the jitters out and realized it's only football, I think both sides did pretty well, wide receiver Terrell Golden said. Sometimes you're tired, and then you come out here and you see all the support from the fans and it reassures you and lets you know what you're working toward.