Rutgers pulled out enough defensive stops to keep No. 8 Penn State within striking distance with a 9-0 halftime deficit, but a lack of offense and a hiccups on special teams doomed Senior Night at High Point Solutions Stadium in a 39-0 shutout.
The Nittany Lions (9-2, 7-1) rolled with their seventh straight win. Rutgers (2-9, 0-8) dropped its eighth game in a row and suffered its fourth shutout of the season.
After the game, senior captain Darius Hamilton had a message for his teammates.
“I just said I love them,” the fifth-year defensive tackle said. “I love them, and I just said keep working. Obviously, there’s only a week left, but shame on you if you treat it like it’s not important.
“Regardless of the record, I love the game of football. I’m going to continue to work everyday like I’m someone who loves the game of football. I’m going to continue to prepare like somebody who loves the game of football. I just want them to do the same.”
The end result was bittersweet for Hamilton and the senior class.
While the offense was a no show with just 89 total yards and only five first downs, Rutgers came to play on defense. The unit held Penn State to three field goals in the first half and added a turnover on downs in the red zone, its 13th red-zone stop of the season.
“We played well in the first half,” Hamilton said. “(Penn State) made some major, major halftime adjustments and they hit us where it hurt in the second half, but it’s all a part of the game. We got to continue to grow, continue to get better.”
Fellow senior captain Julian Pinnix-Odrick echoed those sentiments.
“I think (the first-half performance is) just a testament to the type of guys we got down there and the type of guys and the defense we want to be and that we have to be consistent enough to be,” the fifth-year defensive end said. “… We just got to be more consistent, that’s all. It’s not really a giant formula as to what we need to do or really change anything. But when you’re confident and you’re playing, you just get better at what you do.”
The Nittany Lions broke through with 30 points in the second half. They wore Rutgers down with 251 of their 339 rush yards between the third and fourth quarters.
Still in search of its first win since Sept. 17 against New Mexico, Rutgers heads to Maryland (5-6, 2-6) next week for its regular-season finale.
“We got one more on the road and this week, preparation is going to be the same as every other week,” said senior wide receiver Andre Patton. “It’s probably going to be a little more important since it’s the last game and I want to go out with a win. I’m sure the rest of the team wants to go out with a win. So that’s how we’re going to practice.”