The offense scored easily, the defense dominated the line of scrimmage and some young backups even got to play.
It all went according to plan Saturday for No. 14 Penn State in a 52-3 rout of lower-division Eastern Illinois.
Daryll Clark threw for three touchdowns and ran for another, Jared Odrick led a menacing defense with two sacks and linebacker Navorro Bowman returned a fumble 91 yards for a touchdown in the Nittany Lions’ most complete performance of the season.
“We’re not anywhere near as good as where we have to be, but we think we are a better football team than three or four weeks ago,” coach Joe Paterno said. “We played with a little more poise.”
The game was well in hand in the first half, when Penn State (5-1) scored 28 points the final 7:27 of the second quarter. Clark threw his TDs on three straight drives, including a 51-yarder to Chaz Powell down the right seam, to give Penn State a 24-0 lead with 4:33 left in the half.
Later, Eastern Illinois (4-2) pieced together a nice drive deep into Penn State territory, but Ollie Ogbu sacked Jake Christensen and forced a fumble. The loose ball bounced into Bowman’s hands at the 9, and he rumbled untouched down the right sideline into the end zone—nearly slipping at the 25—for a 38-0 lead at halftime.
By that time, the biggest question left was when would Paterno insert touted freshman backup quarterback Kevin Newsome into the game. He ended up scoring, too, on a 9-yard run up the middle in the fourth quarter to make it 52-3. It was the highest point total for Penn State since a 61-10 blowout of Coastal Carolina to open the 2008 season.
The Nittany Lions gained a season-high 553 yards. The outcome wasn’t that unexpected, especially since Eastern Illinois plays in the Football Championship Subdivision. Otherwise, the biggest goal for the banged-up Nittany Lions was to avoid any more injuries with Big Ten play resuming next week with a visit from Minnesota.
Penn State played without star linebacker Sean Lee (left knee) for a third straight week, and right tackle Nerraw McCormack sat out with a right ankle injury. It didn’t really matter—Penn State still had too much talent to overwhelm the Panthers.
Christensen, a transfer from Iowa who played at Beaver Stadium in 2007, was harassed all afternoon by Odrick and his defensive linemates. He finished 13 of 25 for 137 yards and one interception, and was harassed much of the day by Odrick and his defensive linemates.
Clark was 13 of 19 for 234 yards with one interception to go with his three scores. Clark also opened the scoring with a TD plunge from a yard out.
Eastern Illinois’ only score came on a 43-yard field goal by Austin Signor in the third quarter.