WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. —
With little more to play for than pride, Penn State continued its surprisingly successful season on Saturday.
Matt McGloin passed for 321 yards and two touchdowns to help the Nittany Lions defeat Purdue 34-9.
Penn State can’t play in the postseason, the result of NCAA sanctions connected to the Jerry Sandusky scandal. Still, the Nittany Lions dominated a Purdue team that was in desperate need of a win.
“We’re playing for our team,” said sophomore Zach Zwinak, who rushed for 134 yards. “We don’t have much else but each other. The seniors, they only have three games left. We play for each other. That’s why we continue to push and fight together.”
Penn State had won five straight games before losing 35-23 to Ohio State last week. The Nittany Lions were able to quickly refocus for Purdue.
“We see teams come off a big game and let it linger on them,” Penn State coach Bill O’Brien said. “You have to bury those losses, and that’s what we did.”
Brandon Moseby-Felder had six catches for 129 yards and Michael Zordich ran for two touchdowns for the Nittany Lions (6-3, 4-1 Big Ten).
McGloin notched his fifth career game with at least 300 yards passing, breaking the school record set by Kerry Collins.
“You just take what they give you, move the chains, do what you do best and just make smart decisions,” he said. “I just try to play within myself, play within the system.”
Caleb TerBush passed for 155 yards and a touchdown and Antavian Edison had nine catches for 93 yards and a score for the Boilermakers (3-6, 0-5), who have lost five straight and now will need to win out to become bowl eligible.
The pressure was on Purdue coach Danny Hope after athletic director Morgan Burke released a statement earlier in the week saying that the team’s performance had kept the Boilermakers from reaching their goals, and that those associated with the program had expected the team to take a step up the postseason ladder.
Hope was disappointed after Saturday’s effort.
“I thought we took the field very fired up,” Hope said. “We had sideline energy and game energy. We came in thinking we could win this game. We came out with a lot of energy and were fired up to play. We just weren’t able to execute and play well, and that’s been typical of big ballgames lately.”
Akeem Hunt’s 47-yard return of the opening kickoff and Akeem Shavers’
37-yard run set up a 21-yard field goal by Sam McCartney that gave the Boilermakers a 3-0 lead. It was the first time Penn State had been scored upon in the first quarter all season.
Penn State went for it on fourth-and-1 from the 50 on its opening possession, but McGloin’s pass fell incomplete. Purdue couldn’t take advantage, as Shavers fumbled and Penn State’s Malcolm Willis recovered.
Penn State drove down the field, and Sam Ficken kicked a 27-yard field goal to even the score with 6:03 left in the first quarter.
On Penn State’s next possession, McGloin found Moseby-Felder for 42 yards, then Zordich scored on a 6-yard run for a 10-3 lead.
Robert Marve completed an 8-yard pass to Edison on a fourth-and-1 from the Penn State 41 to extend a second-quarter drive, but Paul Griggs’ 45-yard field goal was wide right.
Penn State responded by extending its lead. Allen Robinson’s leaping 27-yard grab over Purdue’s Josh Johnson moved the ball into field-goal range, and Ficken’s 24-yard chip shot pushed the Nittany Lions’ lead to 13-3 with 3:47 left in the first half.
Zordich pounded the ball in from 5 yards out to increase Penn State’s lead to 20-3 with 1:16 left in the first half. The strong start to the game was important for the Nittany Lions, who won their third straight road game.
“We want to make them adjust to us,” McGloin said. “We don’t want to give them the benefit of being at home. We want to take the fans out if possible, and so far we’ve been able to do that on the road.”
Penn State went right down the field on its opening possession of the second half and McGloin found Jesse James for a 12-yard touchdown pass. On Penn State’s next possession, Moseby-Felder’s 41-yard touchdown catch from McGloin made it 34-3 and sent Purdue’s fans scurrying toward the exits.
TerBush completed a 2-yard touchdown pass to Edison on the last play of the game.
The Nittany Lions are aware that other teams are concerned about bowl eligibility, and they are proud of the fact that they have remained focused without a reward waiting at the end of their journey.
Penn State will hit the road again on Saturday and play at Legends Division leader Nebraska.
“We have to truly focus on the team we’re playing because we need that win,” McGloin said. “We’re trying to get nine wins this season, and that’s our main goal right now. Like I said, we’re just focused on beating Nebraska right now.”