NU: Game Breakdown

The good, the bad and the spooky from Penn State's 34-13 Halloween win at Northwestern. The Lions improved to 8-1 overall and 4-1 in the Big Ten with the victory.

EVANSTON, Ill. -- With more than 10 minutes to go in a game between Northwestern and Penn State here Saturday, the Ryan Field scoreboard flashed a reminder to fans to be careful upon leaving the stadium.

The scoreboard pointed out that it was Halloween, and as such children would be out trick or treating in the area.

It was a kind gesture, to be sure. But the fact that it appeared on the scoreboard with so much time left in the game would have seemed absurd just a few minutes earlier.

Though PSU entered the game as he nation's 10th-ranked team, the unranked Wildcats gave it all it could handle and then some for three quarters. The game was tied 13-13 after 45 minutes, and that was only because the Lions rallied from deficits of 10-3 and 13-10.

But Penn State flexed its muscles in the final quarter. A Brandon Beachum TD plunge made it 20-13. Then a bomb from Daryll Clark to Derek Moye made it 27-13.

Fans started streaming for the exits. And the warning sign came up on the scoreboard. As if to prove the game really was over, Penn State unleashed another score shortly after Moye's catch as Evan Royster ran 69 yards for a touchdown.

When the dust cleared, PSU had scored on three straight offensive plays in a span of fewer than four minutes. Royster's jaunt made it 34-13, which wound up being the final.

State improved to 8-1 overall and 4-1 in the Big Ten with the win. Northwestern fell to 5-4 and 2-3.

Here is how things went down:

MAN OF THE HOUR: There are a lot of different ways we can go here. But the guy who seemed to keep everything together for the Nittany Lions was the senior quarterback and captain Clark. He stayed cool even when the game was tight, and finished 22 of 31 for 274 yards and one score while rushing 6 times for 16 yards and another TD.

CLOSE SECOND: In his return to full-time action, senior linebacker Sean Lee posted a game-high 12 tackles. He was far from perfect -- he did deliver a late hit and showed a touch of rust on certain plays. But it was great to see him flying around the field again.

CLOSE THIRD: The PSU offensive line gave up one sack -- and that was when Clark slipped. NU only had three tackles in the backfield on the day for a total of three lost yards by the Lions.

TURNING POINT (Game Situation): With the game tied 13-13 early in the fourth quarter, Penn State pounded out a 7-play, 58-yard drive. Beachum capped it with a 2-yard TD blast and the Lions went up 20-13 and never looked back.

TURNING POINT (Personnel): PSU coach Joe Paterno was the first to acknowledge that the Lions gained a big advantage when NU senior quarterback Mike Kafka was lost to a leg injury in the second quarter.

SOLID STRATEGY: Penn State ran the ball 10 times (for 37 yards) in the first half. But in the second half, the Lions ran 17 times (for 126 yards) and wore out the Wildcat defense.

NUMBERS GAME: NU held a 45-26 edge in offensive plays in the first half. That advantage was reduced to 35-32 in the second half. … Despite running 22 fewer plays in the game (58-80) PSU outgained the Wildcats (437 yards to 371_.

BUSINESS AS USUAL: Moye had 6 more catches for 123 yards and a score. He continues to be one of the more underappreciated game-breakers in the nation.

SPECIAL DELIVERY: Chaz Powell returned two kickoffs for 52 yards, including a 36-yarder to open the second half.

WHAT'S UP WITH?

• All those mistakes by the Lions. Too many men on the field on a punt. A late hit on a third-down stop. A blown coverage on a kickoff that the opponent fumbled. No wonder the game was so close for so long.

• The usually sure-handed Graham Zug dropping one certain touchdown and another long pass from Clark.

• Penn State attempting some crazy end-around fake on a third-and-1 from its own 43 in the second quarter. The Lions were called for illegal motion. But since the play -- a Royster run -- gained no yardage, NU declined and forced the punt.

Michigan fumbling three kickoffs. It recovered all three, and Stephen Simmons actually returned one 44 yards.

• The poor fan support for the Wildcats. Attendance was listed as 30,546, but a lot of them were apparently in empty seat costumes. Many of the rest were Penn State fans.

HIT SQUAD: Lee was laying the lumber everywhere, including on an iffy late-hit call he received after dropping NU backup QB Dan Persa late in the game.

HIDDEN HERO: Kicker Colin Wagner was perfect on two short field-goal tries and four extra points on a windy day. He was also good on kickoffs. The only long return was on a play where the cover team blew contain after Simmons fumbled.

LOST IN THE SHUFFLE: Clark completed passes to 10 different receivers. … Penn State had nine tackles for loss, but only defensive end Jerome Hayes had more than one (he had 1.5).

DID YOU NOTICE?

Nerraw McCormack replaced Ako Poti at right tackle during a second-quarter series when Poti had an issue with his shoe. Poti returned on the next series.

• Hayes reprised his role as the up man on kickoffs and got a return for the second straight week. This time he went 19 yards.

• Injured tailback Stephfon Green made the trip but did not suit up for the game. He was a very vocal cheerleader on the sideline, though.

• For this first time this season, rookie kicker Anthony Fera did not make a road trip for the Lions. Fera has yet to play and this obviously cements his redshirt. David Soldner replaced him on the travel roster.

• A host of former Lions were on the sideline. They included Anthony Adams, Andrew Guman Eric McCoo, Scott Paxson and Tyler Reed. Matt Suhey, whose son Joe is State's starting fullback, was also on hand.

UNANSWERED QUESTION: Are the Lions ready for another key matchup with Ohio State?


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