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Redd, defense lead Penn State to 23-18 win over Purdue

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Silas Redd ran for 131 yards and a touchdown and Penn State took advantage of Purdue's special teams miscues to hold on Saturday for a 23-18 win.

The stadium rumbled. The wind howled. Chants of “We are Penn State!” erupted as 100,820 raucous fans cheered on their Nittany Lions.

The home-filed advantage worked.

Linebacker Nate Stupar picked off Purdue quarterback Caleb TerBush on the Boilermakers final offensive play, sealing the 23-18 victory for the Nittany Lions on a blustery day in Happy Valley Saturday afternoon.

With their fifth win in a row, Penn State improved to 6-1 on the season and 2-0 in Big Ten play.

The interception—Stupar’s second of the day—was a microcosm of what won Penn State this game. A combination of big special-teams plays and timely turnovers allowed Penn State to stay one step ahead of the Boilermakers throughout the game.

Purdue’s final drive started with 2:36 remaining on the clock. The Boilermakers started from their own 2-yard line thanks to a booming 69-yard punt from Anthony Fera.

After that, Purdue was cooked.

Penn State’s defense didn’t break. Hell, it didn’t even bend. Purdue gained just 7 yards on the drive before TerBush’s pass was picked off by Stupar on 4th down. Penn State would convert a fourth-and-one play on their ensuing drive before McGloin kneeled the ball to end the game. Purdue had no timeouts to stop the clock.

“One of my brilliant moves,” Head Coach Joe Paterno quipped after the game.

Penn State got the scoring started midway through the first quarter. Rob Bolden—who got the start at quarterback—started hot, completing passes of 21 and 19 yards to receiver Brandon Moseby-Felder. That set up Curtis Dukes’ first-career rushing touchdown from 1 yard out to put the Nittany Lions ahead, 7-0.

After a Purdue field goal cut the lead to 7-3, Bolden’s play began to worsen. At the start of the second quarter, Matt McGloin took over from under center, but Penn State’s offense still couldn’t move the ball downfield.

Penn State’s defense managed to keep Purdue’s offense in check, however.

Running back Ralph Bolden busted out for 34 yards—the longest single run allowed by Penn State this season—late in the second half to get the Boilermakers deep in their own territory, but Penn State dug-in, with Devon Still getting into the backfield three plays later on 3rd and 1 to hold Purdue to a field goal.

With 15 seconds remaining in the half, Stupar’s first interception gave Penn State a first-and-ten on the Nittany Lions’ own 12-yard line.  Tight end Andrew Szczerba would drop a touchdown pass in the end zone, forcing Penn State to settle for a field goal and a 10-6 lead heading into halftime.

That’s when things got interesting in this Big Ten battle.

After forcing a three-and-out on the Boilermakers’ first drive of the second half, Justin Brown returned the punt 33 yards, the longest return for Penn State this season. The return helped set up another field goal for the Nittany Lions, extending the lead to 13-6.

Penn State averted disaster on the following play, though.

Raheem Mostert returned the subsequent kickoff 71 yards to the Penn State 26-yard line, almost breaking away for the score before being ruled out of bounds. Purdue followed with their first touchdown of the game, a 14 yard pass from TerBush to O.J. Ross in the back of the end zone. Kicker Carson Wiggs would miss the extra point, allowing Penn State to retain the slimmest of margins, 13-12.

Wiggs’ confidence clearly shaken, the kicker followed up the missed extra point by kicking the ball out of bounds, giving Penn State a short field to work with.

With McGloin under center, the quarterback would make three straight completions for 51 yards to march the Nittany Lions down the field before Silas Redd finished off the drive with a 9-yard touchdown, increasing the lead to 20-12.

Redd finished the day with 131 yards on 28 carries and a touchdown. The effort marked the sophomore’s 3rd straight 100-yard rushing performance and fourth of the season.

Purdue continued its sloppy play on the following possession. After two big gains of 21 and 20 yards, safety Nick Sukay intercepted TerBush. It was his third of the year, a team high.

Penn State seemed to be cruising for the easy win after the interception. Brown had a huge pickup of 22 yards on third-and-15 and two plays later made a spectacular one-handed grab for 34 yards, putting the offense at its own 23-yard line.

But in a game as hard-fought as this one, something was bound to happen.

McGloin went for the end zone, but his pass ricocheted off of his intended target into the air, bouncing off his foot as he fell to the ground before landing in the arms of Purdue defender Albert Evans, who returned the ball 55 yards. Purdue would score on a 1-yard touchdown run from Akeem Shavers to cut the lead to 20-18, but failed to convert the 2-point conversion and tie the game.

Chaz Powell’s 92 yard kickoff return on the ensuing possession set up Penn State’s final field goal and gave the Nittany Lions the breathing room they would need to put Purdue away for good.

“That was a good, tough football game,” Paterno said. “Anytime you win a game, you feel fortunate. We have a bunch of kids that worked hard. The assistant coaches get credit for calling some plays to make it possible to win.”

Defensive coordinator Tom Bradley thought his unit didn’t play its best game but wasn’t disappointed with the end result.

“Everything was going haywire. We didn’t play well today on defense and we didn’t have our usual step. We didn’t really get into it until the 4th quarter when we started to fly around again. We just can’t do that.

 “But we got the win, so I don’t care. It’s a win.”

The defense allowed the most points since the 24-11 loss against Alabama the second week of the season. Still, the defense never wilted and Penn State had the lead in this game from start to finish.

The offense still needs improvement, but the defense has been as solid as ever. At 6-1, this team should be ranked as it heads to Chicago to take on Northwestern next week.

Although it’s nice to have a nationally ranked football squad, Coach Paterno doesn’t want his team to get ahead of itself.

“We’ve still got plenty of opportunities to figure out how good we are.”

TURNOVER TRIUMPHS
Penn State had multiple turnovers for the sixth time this season. With three interceptions today, Penn State now has 17 turnovers total after only registering 17 all of last season.

DAPPER DEFENSE
Although the defense allowed 2 touchdowns today, the unit has only allowed 8 all season, good for 3rd best in the country.

CUTTING IT CLOSE
With today’s win, the Nittany Lions have now won four of their games by 10 points or fewer.

NEXT UP
The Nittany Lions travel to Chicago to take on the Northwestern Wildcats. Kickoff time is scheduled for 7 PM.

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