|Tough road tests await unbeaten No. 6 Penn St.|
|Written by Admin|
|Sunday, 28 September 2008 11:57|
Could a third national title possibly be within Hall of Fame coach Joe Paterno's grasp?
Previously-unbeaten Southern California, Georgia, Florida and Wisconsin all lost. Penn State (5-0, 1-0 Big Ten) took care of its end in a somewhat choppy yet decisive 38-24 win over Illinois, allowing Paterno's crew to catapault six places to No. 6 in the latest AP poll.
``We're not going to get complacent at all. We're still in the running for the Big Ten, that's our main goal,'' linebacker Navorro Bowman said Saturday night.
``Ultimately we want the national championship. There were a lot of upsets today and luckily we weren't one of them.''
Ah, but the season is young.
After playing four of their first five games at home, Penn State's schedule takes a tougher turn with four of the next five on the road, starting with a potentially tricky matchup at Purdue on Saturday.
tball is crazy,'' wideout Derrick Williams said after leading the Nittany Lions with a receiving, rushing and kick return touchdowns against the Illini (2-2, 0-1). ``Anybody can beat you at any given time.''
Then comes a trifecta of Big Ten foes that have presented the Nittany Lions with a ton of trouble in the past: at Wisconsin; home for Michigan; and the dreaded annual matchup against Ohio State, this year at the Horseshoe.
Get past those teams unscathed and the Nittany Lions' title hopes get much brighter.
Penn State had to overcame a healthy dose of adversity Saturday night before they could finally smile after falling behind 7-0 and 14-7 in the first quarter. The defense was thrown off-kilter by dual-threat quarterback Juice Williams and Illinois' no-huddle spread.
The Illini rushed for 189 yards on a Nittany Lions 'D' that had allowed just 50-plus a game coming into the night.
``It's hard to get ready for the tempo,'' Paterno said. ``I think that was the hardest part, getting adjusted to that.''
Penn State's recent penchant for fumbling continued, with two more cough-ups, including one by Stephfon Green in his own territory that led to an Illinois field goal that sliced the lead to 24-17 heading into the fourth quarter.
ppeared to suffer from leg cramps in the fourth quarter.
And yet, Penn State pulled through.
The defense clamped down just enough after the frenetic first quarter to take advantage of Illinois miscues, including an interception and a drive that stalled because of two holding penalties.
Bowman, an athletic sophomore who has emerged as a potential standout, had 10 tackles and forced Illini tailback Daniel Dufrene to fumble midway through the fourth quarter.
With Norwood down, Williams stepped up to deliver a TD performance unseen in Paterno's 43 years as head coach. His kickoff return of 94 yards gave Penn State a two-touchdown lead early in the fourth quarter.
``He had a lifetime game,'' said receiver Graham Zug, who took many of the snaps typically reserved for Norwood.
It was the type of competitive matchup Penn State hadn't faced in its four nonconference blowouts. The outcome pleased Paterno, who often likes to say that he can't judge how good his team is until they've faced adversity.
And that's not even counting the off-field troubles the Nittany Lions have encountered over the past 18 months.
``They are a good bunch of kids to coach,'' Paterno said. ``They listen. They are trying to make sure no one gets in trouble. It's good to see a bunch of kids have success with all of the junk going on around them.''
who had been suspended in the offseason for his involvement in an off-campus fight a year ago.
Asked if Penn State should be considered national-title material, Bowman responded, ``That's up to you guys. We're just working hard and trying to be the best team we can be. I mean, I don't know, are we good enough?''