EIU: Lions Blow Away Panthers

Big plays help Penn State roll to an easy win over FCS opponent Eastern Illinois. Joe Paterno's team improves to 5-1 on the season with the victory.

Late in the second quarter against Penn State Saturday, Eastern Illinois was working on a red-zone drive and posting its first points on the Beaver Stadium scoreboard.

The same scoreboard had to be repaired a few days early, after heavy winds in Happy Valley blew several panels loose.

Yet just as the Panthers seemed poised to strike, their hopes were blown away, too -- not by the wind, but rather the Nittany Lion defense. EIU quarterback Jake Christensen, following a hit from defensive tackle Ollie Ogbu, fumbled on third and goal from his own 8.

PSU linebacker Navorro Bowman scooped up the loose pigskin and ran 91 yards for a touchdown that gave the Lions a 38-0 lead at the break. Penn State (5-1) went on to win, 52-3.

“I was just worried about not getting caught,” said Bowman, who struggled on the last 20 yards of the return.

“He got to the sideline and heard a lot of jokes,” Ogbu said. “We called him grandpa. He went from a stud to a dud.”

The game against the FCS Panthers (4-2) was a dud from a competitive standpoint. But there were several highlight reel plays for the Lions, including a 51-yard touchdown catch by wideout Chaz Powell.

Midway through the second period, quarterback Daryll Clark underthrew Powell around the 5-yard line, forcing the redshirt sophomore to come back to the ball. While doing so, he was roughed up by Eastern Illinois cornerback Rashad Haynes.

Powell fought off Haynes, caught the football, and had a quick walk into the end zone. Flags were thrown on the play for defensive interference but PSU declined and took a 24-0 lead.

“First of all, he did a really good job of staying with the ball and adjusting to it,” Clark said. “And with the guy grabbing on him and everything, he still was able to grab it. I was excited for him.”

Powell said the touchdown-scoring play was one that the offense had been working on all week at practice.

“He turned me around a little bit, but I just kept my eyes on the ball,” Powell said.

It was one of many big plays by the PSU offense, which posted 553 yards, with nine players getting carries and eight making catches. The defense dominated, too, allowing only 206 total yards.

Penn State's much-maligned nonconference schedule is over.

For the Nittany Lions, it is Big Ten opponents for the remainder of the season. This game marked the halfway point of the 2009 campaign, which allowed Coach Joe Paterno to assess where his team is.

“We're not even near as good as we have to be,” Paterno said. “But we're getting better and we're a better football team today than we were three or four weeks ago.”

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