After allowing a return for a score on the opening kickoff, and later letting the Boilermakers march to a third-and-goal from the PSU 1-yard line with the prospect of going up 17-3, the Nittany Lions regrouped and showed as much heart as they have all season.
A turnover prevented Purdue from scoring. And then Penn State took control of the game, eventually pounding out a 26-19 victory to improve to 7-3 overall and 4-3 in the Big Ten. The Boilers dropped to 7-3 and 3-3.
Read on for our breakdown of the action.
MAN OF THE HOUR: Multipurpose threat Derrick Williams had his best game as a Nittany Lion, with 10 catches for 95 yards and a score, two carries for 21 yards and a score, and 35 return yards.
CLOSE SECOND: Lots of candidates here. Senior quarterback Anthony Morelli showed plenty of poise in completing 22 of 35 passes for 210 yards and a TD, and gaining 20 yards rushing. He became the first PSU player to top the 2,000-yard passing mark in two different seasons. Redshirt freshman tailback Evan Royster banged out 126 yards and the game-sealing TD. And senior linebacker Dan Connor had 11 tackles and passed former teammate Paul Posluszny for the team's all-time lead (he now has 379).
TURNING POINT: You didn't think we were going to forget about Sean Lee, did you? Penn State was on the verge of going down 17-3 late in the first quarter when the linebacker drilled Purdue running back Jaycen Taylor at the goal line, causing a fumble. Lee recovered to keep the Lions in the game. He had a dozen tackles and two forced fumbles in the game.
SOLID STRATEGY: Penn State hit Purdue with a steady diet of Royster on the deciding scoring drive in the fourth quarter. The Boilermakers collapsed under the pressure. We also liked the confidence the staff showed in the offense in going for it on fourth-and-1 from the Purdue 45 on that drive, despite leading just 19-16 at the time.
NUMBERS GAME: Penn State held the ball for 10 of the 15 minutes in the fourth quarter. The Lions put up 461 yards of total offense to the Boilermakers' 323. This marks the second straight year the Purdue offense failed to score a TD vs. State. Connor (104) and Lee (103) both have more than 100 tackles this year, only the third time in school history a tandem has passed the century mark.
BUSINESS AS USUAL: Defensive end Maurice Evans had six tackles and a pair of sacks.
SPECIAL DELIVERY: Punter Jeremy Boone continues to shine. Though he averaged only 37.8 yards on five kicks, four of them were downed inside the 20.
WHAT'S UP WITH? Penn State continuing to flat-out stink on kickoff coverage. This week's circus included another return for a score (on the opening play) and 171 yards of returns in the game.
HIT SQUAD: Safety Anthony Scirrotto wiped out Boilermaker receiver Dorien Bryant after the latter dropped a pass in the third quarter. If you're going to get nailed anyway, you might as well catch it.
TOUGH GUY: Kudos to Morelli for popping right up after a couple of late hits.
HIDDEN HERO: The PSU offensive line. The group has quietly developed into a solid unit.
LOST IN THE SHUFFLE: Defensive coordinator Tom Bradley allowed corner Justin King to play more man coverage, and the junior responded with five pass breakups. Sure, he was hit with a couple of interference penalties. But it sure looked like he had his coverage mojo back.
YOUTH MOVEMENT: Sophomore Phil Taylor had only one tackle in the game, but it was a sack of Boilermaker QB Curtis Painter.
DID YOU NOTICE?
Penn State began the game in a nickel defense, with Lydell Sargeant moving from corner to nickel and A.J. Wallace taking over as the starting left corner. Linebacker Tyrell Sales came out in those nickel situations.
The players introduced before the game as suiting up for the final time at Beaver Stadium included redshirt sophomore quarterback Kevin Suhey and redshirt junior tight end Jordan Lyons. Both signed with PSU in 2004, though Suhey delayed enrolling full-time until January of 2005. Neither player had registered any statistics through nine games this season.
Speaking of which, only three members of Penn State's scholarship Class of 2003 made it through to Senior Day — receiver Terrell Golden, running back Rodney Kinlaw and offensive lineman John Shaw. In fairness to that 11-member class, linebacker Paul Posluszny and running back Tony Hunt both exhausted their eligibility in four years and are now on NFL rosters.
Kinlaw rushed for 84 yards on 12 carries in his Beaver Stadium swan song, but had a killer fumble in the fourth quarter. Joe Paterno screamed at him after the play.
Golden caught two passes for 14 yards in his farewell.
It was late arriving student section Saturday. Fifteen minutes after the gates opened, there were only 46 students in the stadium, hardly the rush for seats that happened a week earlier. The section filled up — almost — by the middle of the second quarter.
UNANSWERED QUESTION: Cap One, Outback our Alamo? Scouts for all three bowls were on hand Saturday.