So it turns out that a team that has won only a single time in nine attempts is, in fact, not all that good.
The positive spin the Penn State Nittany Lions can put on their victory over Purdue on Saturday is that there was never a time when it felt like the Boilermakers were going to legitimately make a game out of it. That said, it shouldn't be ignored that Purdue did manage to put up the team's highest point total since being blown out by Northern Illinois back near the end of September. You play to win the game, a great man once said, and win Penn State did.
They can't all be beautiful victories.
Penn State beats Purdue: The main story...
was that the Purdue defense played at a level that had me wondering if it would struggle containing a solid high school offense. This was especially true regarding the rushing attack of the Nittany Lions. The PSU offensive line thoroughly dominated the up-front battle in the first quarter, and Bill Belton was getting his Madden juke moves on and frustrating would-be tacklers in the process.
Then came Belton losing the football for the third consecutive game, a fumble that gave the Boilermakers a glimpse of hope.
That mistake ended up not mattering at all minus Belton's carries total. Zach Zwinak stepped right in and proved to be as unstoppable as was his teammate, picking up 149 yards on the ground and finding the end zone on three separate occasions. In all, the Nittany Lions rushed for a total of 289 yards on the afternoon.
The only thing that stopped the Penn State run game was the clock getting to 00:00.
Penn State beats Purdue: The game changed...
when an unexpected hero made the biggest tackle of the afternoon. Purdue's Akeem Hunt was one Penn State player away from matching what teammate Raheem Mostert had accomplished in the waning moments of the first half when he looked to be on his way to taking a Sam Ficken kickoff to the house. Ficken had, like the rest of the kick coverage, been burned by Mostert on the kick return that put Purdue to within 14 points of PSU with 1:05 left in the second quarter.
Ficken wasn't to be beaten again.
His touchdown-saving tackle helped ensure that the visitors, trailing by only ten points at the time, would not acquire any additional momentum. Deion Barnes forced a fumble when he sacked Purdue quarterback Danny Etling four plays later, and the ball was eventually recovered by Penn State's Austin Johnson. The Nittany Lions subsequently marched down the field for a touchdown, and Purdue never again got to within ten points of PSU.
Penn State beats Purdue: Perspective
Saturday's result shouldn't really elicit much emotion either way from the PSU faithful. Above-average teams should absolutely beat up on weak sides at home, and that's exactly what happened at Beaver Stadium. Quarterback Christian Hackenberg had a fine outing minus one regrettable pass that was picked off. Wide receiver Allen Robinson broke his own season record when he reeled in catch 78 of the campaign. The Penn State defense was only responsible for surrendering two Purdue touchdowns, and the hosts forced three turnovers.
The Nittany Lions aren't Florida State or Alabama. They're not putting 70 points on the scoreboard against an opponent like Purdue, nor are they piling up video game stats during such a match-up. Penn State was workmanlike in the winning effort, in control for much of the contest and never in any real danger of losing.
It was a good response following that tough loss at Minnesota last weekend.