AKRON: Receivers Shine as PSU Rolls

Moye, Powell and Zug lead the way in the Nittany Lions' easy 31-7 victory over Akron at Beaver Stadium. But a few areas of concern emerge for Penn State.

Joe Paterno led the team out of the tunnel for his 44th year as a head coach by jogging. Sean Lee had six tackles.

It was as if everything was back to normal in Penn State's 31-7 win against Akron to open the 2009 campaign at Beaver Stadium.

But there was an influx of new talent that starred for the Nittany Lions on Saturday, especially at wide receiver.

The most productive trio of wideouts in Penn State history -- Derrick Williams, Deon Butler and Jordan Norwood -- are gone. Who would replace those three was one of the biggest questions facing the Lions heading into the opener.

Graham Zug and Derek Moye were the only wide receivers to start on Saturday. However, the Nittany Lions got significant contributions from Chaz Powell and the electric, 5-foot-7, 153-pound freshman Devon Smith.

“Those guys came out, definitely made plays for us,” said quarterback Daryll Clark, who finished with a career-high 353 passing yards. “[They] proved to some people that they could definitely get open.”

Penn State needed to rely on its passing game as the running game could not find its groove at all Saturday, especially during the first half. Going into halftime, the Nittany Lions' leading rushers had 37 yards. They were Evan Royster and safety Andrew Dailey -- who took a fake punt that distance in the second quarter.

“We definitely got a lot of improvements to make on the run blocking,” center Stefen Wisniewski said. “For this, we had three new starters [on the offensive line]. The second start is a lot easier than the first start.”

Powell, who at times lined up in the backfield and had swing passes thrown his way, caught the first receiving touchdown of the season for Penn State. Clark added two more touchdowns in the second quarter, one each to Zug and Moye.

In the back of the end zone, Moye ran a post-corner and in his words “jumped up and caught it.”

That was one of six catches that Moye caught from Clark. He started his day off with a 36-yard catch, aided by a crushing comeback block from Zug. It was easily the best game Moye has had as a receiver.

“Receiving? No,” Moye said when asked if he had ever had as big of a game as he did Saturday. “I played running back in high school. I never had a receiving game this big.”

Zug's second-quarter touchdown put Penn State up 31-0 at halftime and it appeared that the Nittany Lions would continue their tradition of rolling over their season-opener opponent.

Not so.

Penn State failed to score in the second half and only put up 171 yards of total offense after gaining 344 yards in the first half. The defense also had a bit of a rough going in the second half, too. It allowed Akron's only score -- a 40-yard touchdown catch by Deryn Bowser, who beat safety Nick Sukay -- and also gave up 178 more offensive yards than it allowed in the first half. Granted, the Zips gained a total of eight yards in the first half.

“I thought we had a terrible second half,” Paterno said. “We got soft, thought the game was over, weren't very sharp. We have a lot of young kids and they thought the thing was over at halftime.”

His quarterback agreed.

“We were playing terrible in the second half,” Clark said. “We couldn't run, we couldn't execute on the pass, we just weren't doing well.”

The lack of second-half success is perhaps secondary to the other problem that surfaced Saturday.

Collin Wagner, who was tabbed to replace Kevin Kelly as the place-kicker, had a rough first day on the job. He badly missed two of the three field goals he attempted, one of which was only from 28 yards.

“He didn't have a good day,” Paterno said. “He's better than that.”

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