Penn State tops Northwestern after wild first half
Penn State's Silas Redd breaks a tackle by Northwestern's Jordan Mabin Saturday. Redd finshed with 164 yards -- his fourth consecutive 100-yard game in the Nittany Lions' 34-24 win.
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EVANSTON, Ill. -- Penn State's usually reliable defense was gouged for 24 points Saturday night in the first half at Ryan Field.
But the Nittany Lions pitched a shutout in the second half en route to a 34-24 victory that kept them unbeaten atop the Leaders Division of the Big Ten Conference.
Weak-side linebacker Gerald Hodges, who had a career-high 14 tackles and 1 1/2 sacks, set up the only score of the second half -- a 19-yard touchdown run by Silas Redd -- with a 63-yard interception return early in the third quarter. The pass was tipped by defensive tackle Jordan Hill.
Penn State's defense did allow a season-high 406 yards, but the Lions also registered a season-high seven sacks and knocked out Northwestern quarterback Dan Persa from the game in the fourth with an apparent ankle injury.
The Lions (7-1, 4-0) won their sixth consecutive game while handing the Wildcats (2-5, 0-4) their fifth consecutive loss.
Coach Joe Paterno, who was in the coaches booth the entire game, tied Eddie Robinson for career victories among all NCAA divisions with win No. 408.
"I'm happy to be part of another big win for coach Paterno," quarterback Matt McGloin said.
McGloin came off the bench in relief of Bolden a year ago to pass for four touchdowns in Penn State's 35-21 victory against Northwestern at Beaver Stadium to give Paterno his 400th win.
McGloin made his first start of the season Saturday against the Wildcats, replacing Rob Bolden, and played the entire game. He completed 17 of 26 passes for 192 yards and two touchdowns -- a 45-yarder to wide receiver Devon Smith and a 4-yarder to Justin Brown, both in the first quarter.
Smith finished with a team-high six catches for 110 yards and Penn State had 381 yards overall.
"I thought we played a good, solid football game," said Paterno, who improved to 4-0 against Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald. "We're getting better, but we've still got a ways to go."
Redd went over 100 yards for the fourth consecutive game, finishing with a career-high 164 yards on 18 carries -- a 9.1 average -- against the Wildcats. He also scored his sixth rushing touchdown of the season.
"The offensive line did a great job of opening some holes for me, especially on the touchdown," Redd said. "That's four games in a row now for me and the line. Hopefully, we can keep it going.
"I went to the low-cut cleats and I think that really helped me out a lot."
Third-string tailback Stephfon Green's first rushing touchdown in 20 games, a 1-yard run with seven seconds left in the second, gave Penn State a 27-24 edge at halftime and proved to be the winning score. The two teams combined for 574 yards of offense, 26 first downs and just one punt in the first half, and Redd had 12 carries for 119 yards.
McGloin completed 14 of 19 passes for 160 yards and two touchdowns in the first half.
Persa, a Pennsylvania kid who was not heavily recruited by Paterno and his staff, was 13 of 16 for 180 yards and one touchdown. He also ran for a touchdown. He finished 26 of 34 for 294 yards and one interception.
The scored was tied, 14-14, after one quarter, but Anthony Fera's 37-yard field goal at 12:26 put the Lions back ahead at 17-14.
But Northwestern's version of "Slash," wide receiver/backup quarterback Kain Colter, scored on a 4-yard run as the Wildcats regained a 21-17 advantage.
Fera kicked a 33-yard field goal and Northwestern Jeff Budzien added a 25-yarder before Green's touchdown.
Persa tied the score at 14-14 with 1:54 left in the first quarter on a 12-yard pass to Colter, capping an 87-yard drive. Persa also scored on a 1-yard sneak on fourth down in the first, giving the Wildcats at 7-0 lead after Chaz Powell fumbled the opening kickoff. The ball was recovered at the 34 by Northwestern's Jeravin Matthews of Canon-McMillan High School.
McGloin then threw his second touchdown pass, connecting with Smith to give the Lions a 14-7 lead. Earlier, McGloin tossed a 4-yard touchdown to Brown on third down to tie the scored at 7-7. That touchdown was set up by Powell's 54-yard kickoff return.
NOTES -- Penn State cornerback Stephon Morris did not make the trip for an undisclosed reason. ... Penn State wide receiver Derek Moye, from Rochester, missed his second consecutive game with broken bone in his left foot. ... Defensive end Quentin Williams, from Central Catholic, was one of five new starters on defense for Northwestern. ... Penn State next plays Illinois Saturday at home.
First Published October 23, 2011 12:00 am