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Penn State reaches bowl eligibility with win over Temple

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The Penn State defense forced five turnovers and Akeel Lynch ran for 130 yards as Nittany Lions beat Temple 30-13 at Beaver Stadium on Saturday.

When the first half of Penn State’s tilt with Temple came to a close on Saturday, there had been just nine points scored between the two teams.

Sam Ficken closed the half out with a 50-yard field goal to put the Nittany Lions ahead going into the locker room.

But when the third quarter got underway, the slow, low-scoring game changed as the Lions (6-4) exploded both offensively and defensively to grab a 30-13 victory over the Owls (5-5) at Beaver Stadium and became bowl eligible for the first time since 2011.

The rushing game got started early in the third quarter, after Temple had kicked a field goal to tie the game at 6-6.

On the first play of the Lions drive, running back Bill Belton took a ball up the middle and cut down the sideline for 37 yards. Then, on the next play, Akeel Lynch went up the gut and to the outside for 38 yards and a score, putting the Lions up 13-6.

“I saw the end zone,” Lynch said. “I literally just said, ‘I’m scoring this play,’ so I just tried to burst right through them. I had the same one on a previous drive earlier and they kind of got me at the end so I was like, ‘This time I have to score.’”

The junior back rushed for a team-high 135 yards along with the score, while Belton churned out 92 yards of his own and had an 8-yard score later in the game to put the Lions up 20-6.

Belton got his opportunity thanks to an interception from Lions’ corner Adrian Amos. The senior picked off Owls’ quarterback P.J. Walker and went 33 yards down the sideline and nearly scored, but barely stepped out of bounds at the 8-yard line.

“On that play, like coach [Bob] Shoop always says, I just had good zone eyes,” Amos said. “He threw the ball to me and you catch it once they throw it to you. ...I wanted to score. I still don’t think I stepped out.”

The interception was one of four on the day for Lions defensive backs. Two of which came from true freshmen.

Two Owls drives later, freshman Christian Campbell intercepted a pass, and in the fourth quarter, freshman Grant Haley pulled a Walker pass out of the air and went 30 yards through traffic for a score.

“I’m really proud of those guys,” coach James Franklin said of the freshmen. “They’ve been playing all year long. They’ve been playing well. ...They’ve got the speed and they’ve got the athleticism.”

Late in the contest, Jesse Della Valle intercepted Walker, and Austin Johnson also had a fumble recovery to cap the forced turnovers at five on the day for the Lions.

“You have a lot more confidence when you’re playing well,” Amos said. “We’ve been all playing well, just flying around playing aggressive. That was something we talked a lot about in the offseason, just being aggressive, having fun and making plays.”

Becoming bowl eligible was not something that was a possibility for the Lions at the beginning of this season and Lynch said coming in, he and the classes after him knew they wouldn’t have a chance to play in a bowl game because of the sanctions. He added that they were there because it was about playing football and the love of Penn State.

“Once you go [to Penn State] you’re not leaving because it’s that good,” Lynch said. “Just to have the opportunity to extend the season one more time with these guys with Bill [Belton] and Zach [Zwinack]. Those guys are like my older brothers. To just have one more game with them is something special.”

GAME NOTES
Penn State quarterback Christian Hackenberg was 12-of-26 for 112 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions. The sophomore signal-caller has thrown just seven touchdown passes this year, while also throwing 14 interceptions.Penn State Defense

Walker was 17-of-38 for 187 yards and four interceptions for the Owls. The quarterback also had a beautiful 75-yard touchdown pass down the middle of the field to Jalen Fitzpatrick in the third quarter.

Penn State’s defense held Temple rushers to just 61 total yards on the ground and no touchdowns. Mike Hull once again led the Lions in total tackles with 10. Anthony Zettel had the only sack of the day for the Lions.

Sam Ficken was 3-of-4 on the day in field goals, connecting from 29, 50 and 21 yards, before having a 42-yard attempt blocked late in the game. That’s the fourth field goal attempt that Ficken has had blocked this season.

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