Special teams, turnovers set up 5th win in row, lead to 6-1 record
October 16, 2011 4:00 AM
Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press
Silas Redd had his third consecutive 100-yard rushing day with 131 Saturday in Penn State's 23-18 victory vs. Purdue at Beaver Stadium in University Park, Pa.
By Ron Musselman Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Penn State remained unbeaten in the Big Ten Conference Saturday, but the Nittany Lions will not receive any style points.
They continue to win ugly, which is fine with them.
Tailback Silas Redd ran for 131 yards on 28 carries and scored a touchdown and Penn State's defense forced three turnovers to hold off pesky Purdue, 23-18, before an announced crowd of 100,820 on homecoming at Beaver Stadium.
The win was the fifth in a row for the Nittany Lions, who improved to 3-0 in the Big Ten's Leaders Division and 6-1 overall.
"That makes us one more win undefeated in the Big Ten," quarterback Matt McGloin said. "I don't care if we win by one point or 100 points."
In the winning streak, Penn State has won three games by six points or fewer and another by 10.
This team, which became bowl-eligible Saturday, is starting to draw comparisons to the 1985 team, which won seven of its first eight games by a touchdown or less en route to finishing 11-1 and losing to Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl.
Winning ugly has become a trademark of both teams.
"At the end of the year, they don't say, `You [had] five wins, three ugly wins, three pretty wins and two so-so,' " said defensive coordinator Tom Bradley, an assistant coach on the '85 team.
"We're not going to the prom here. I'm not worried about having an ugly date."
Penn State, ranked No. 25 in the USA Today coaches poll, figures to crack The Associated Press Top 25 later today for the first time since early last season.
"I think us not having the respect is what's helping us out," defensive tackle and co-captain Devon Still said. "It makes us play that much harder."
Penn State's defense had been allowing 250.8 yards per game, but was gouged for 344 yards offense, including 162 on the ground by the Boilermakers (3-3, 1-1).
"We didn't play well today on defense," Bradley said. "We didn't have our usual step."
Even so, strongside linebacker Nate Stupar intercepted two passes, including the clincher at the Purdue 19 on an errant fourth-down throw by Boilermakers quarterback Caleb TerBush with 1:59 remaining.
The Lions also snuffed out a key two-point conversion try by TerBush in the fourth quarter that could have tied the game, 20-20.
"We're happy to come out with the 'W' and happy we made some plays when we need to down the stretch in key situations," said free safety Nick Sukay (Greensburg Central Catholic), who had an interception that was upheld by review. "As a whole, we're not happy on defense.
"Too many missed tackles, including me."
Penn State was without leading receiver Derek Moye (broken foot), but Justin Brown had a team-high four catches for a season-high 86 yards.
McGloin came off the bench to complete eight of 17 passes for 145 yards and one interception, while Rob Bolden completed two of six for 40 yards as the Lions finished with 367 yards offense.
"It hurt not having [Moye]," Redd said.
Redd churned out his third consecutive 100-yard game and scored his fifth rushing touchdown on a 9-yard run. And backup Curtis Dukes scored his first career touchdown on a 1-yard run in the first quarter.
Anthony Fera kicked a pair of 29-yard field goals and a career-best 40-yarder as special teams played a key role in the outcome.
Penn State's Chaz Powell had a 92-yard kickoff return, Purdue's Raheem Mostert a 71-yard kickoff return and Carson Wiggs kicked field goals of 28 and 32 yards, but he also missed a 44-yarder and an extra point that could have tied the game, 13-13, in the third quarter.
Penn State coach Joe Paterno, in the coaches' booth the entire game, was pleased to escape with another close win. It was the 407th victory of his career.
"We got plenty of opportunities to find out how good we are and whether we ought to be ranked higher," he said.
NOTES -- Defensive end Sean Stanley had the Nittany Lions' lone sack. ... Sukay's interception was his third this season and eighth of his career. ... Redd is the first player with three consecutive 100-yard games since Evan Royster accomplished the feat in 2009. ... Fera tied a career-high with three field goals, and his 69-yard punt in the fourth quarter was the second-longest of his career. ... Cornerback D'Anton Lynn returned to the starting lineup after missing two games with a concussion. ... Brandon Moseby-Felder made his first career start, replacing Moye. He had two catches for 40 yards.