Temple will look back and regret how it failed to finish. Penn State will be happy to have escaped.
The Owls gave the Nittany Lions everything they could handle on Saturday in front of a crowd of 57,323 at Lincoln Financial Field, but Penn State used a one-yard touchdown plunge from Michael Zordich late in the fourth quarter to escape with a 14-10 victory.
Temple had one last chance, driving into Penn State territory with under two minutes left before a sack on 4th-and-10 ended the Owls hopes at an upset.
Well, you always feel fortunate when you win, said Joe Paterno, who coached the game from the press box. I tried to tell people that was as good a Temple team as ever and Ive seen a lot of them.
A lot indeed, as Penn State (2-1) ran its win streak to 29 straight over Temple, including a 28-0 mark with Paterno at the helm. The Nittany Lions lead the all-time series, 37-3-1.
Paternos unblemished record at PSU against the intrastate rival was in serious danger though throughout most of the game until his offense came through in the clutch.
Following the second interception of the game thrown by Temples Mike Gerardi, Penn State made its final charge with Rob Bolden at quarterback, who had been interchanging with Matt McGloin under center. The sophomore shook off some prior struggles to make some crucial plays down the stretch, including an 11-yard strike to Derek Moye on 4th-and-2 to bring the ball to Temples 12-yard line.
The Nittany Lions pushed the ball toward the end zone but almost saw their comeback bid dashed when Bolden fumbled the snap at the three-yard line. After Zordich recovered the loose ball, PSU opted to keep things in the hands of the offense instead of putting its trust in its dismal kicking game for the tie (0 for 3 on field goal attempts).
Brandon Beachums second effort on 4th-and-1 gave Penn State a fresh set of downs and Zordich followed up with a hammering run across the goal line with 2:42 left in regulation to give the Lions their first lead of the game.
A defensive penalty helped the Owls move the ball to the Penn State 34-yard line on their final drive, but the Nittany Lions stout defense secured the win.
Getting a win every week feels great, though coming out with a win today gives us real high hopes, said cornerback Chaz Powell. They were a great team and they came out to play every snap.
The Owls scored on their first possession but failed to increase the advantage because of an anemic offensive performance.
With Penn State consistently stacking the box to stifle Pierce, Temple head coach Steve Addazio had opted to swap in Chester Stewart for Gerardi at quarterback earlier in the matchup to open things up.
We felt that all week long we wanted to be able to come out here and try to establish some power runs, some playaction. Then, we felt if we struggled in that game with their defensive front we would go to Chester and start to exercise some spread option in there, Addazio said.
The change provided little boost to the offense as the club finished with 197 total yards. Still, when Gerardi took over again in the final frame the Owls stayed ahead. That was until the lefty signal-caller sandwiched a pair of interceptions around Penn States third field goal miss of the game.
Gerardi was picked off by Powell near midfield with 11:42 remaining, but Penn States dismal kicking unit could not convert, missing a 36-yard field goal. Gerardi followed it up with another turnover, watching linebacker Michael Mauti step in front of a check-down throw for an interception at the Temple 44-yard line to set up the visitors game-winning TD.
They were just bad throws, admitted Gerardi, who finished 9-for-22 passing for 95 yards. I saw a guy was open, just didnt lead him enough. When you play a good team like Penn State theyre going to make you pay for it and thats what they did.
Those two turnovers at the end, putting them on the short field put our defense in too hard a situation to overcome, Addazio said.
Being in that scenario late against the mighty Penn State could provide some pleasure for a Temple crop that is still on the rise. Just dont tell Addazio, who insisted there was no moral victory for an Owls program that hasnt beaten its Pennsylvania counterpart since 1941.
Temple didnt play Temple football today, the coach said. We got beat in the end and put the ball on the ground. You have to tell them (players) the way it is and come back, battle and go. It should hurt and its supposed to hurt. Now lets find out what we got and how we come back.
E-mail Matt Haughton at email@example.com