COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - This was no time for Penn State's venerable coach, Joe Paterno, to be thinking about the critics.
Moments after his third-ranked Nittany Lions had converted two turnovers by Ohio State freshman quarterback Terrelle Pryor into a 13-6 victory Saturday night, Paterno was asked if doubters would look at the defensive struggle as another case of offensive ineptitude in the Big Ten.
``I can't do anything about it,'' the 81-year-old coach said. ``What do I care what they say?''
The Nittany Lions remained (9-0, 5-0), and Paterno wobbled away from the interview room inside Ohio Stadium - where he has so often had to come up with excuses after a loss - with a smile on his face.
On a crisp night before a Horseshoe-record crowd of 105,711, Penn State's defense came up huge all night and then forced Pryor into pivotal mistakes with the game on the line.
down he tried to go the distance.
``I could've got the first on the quarterback sneak,'' a disconsolate Pryor would say later. ``But I saw all the Penn State guys, they were just pinched in. I knew I had the edge, and all I had to beat was (defensive back Mark Rubin) and I got stripped.''
Rubin was almost alone at right end when he encountered Pryor, punching the ball loose with his left hand as he wrestled with the 6-foot-6 player.
``I just didn't want to let him get the first down,'' said Rubin, whose position is aptly called ``hero'' at Penn State. ``I tried to square up and push him back. I'm not going to lie: I just happened to get my hand on the ball and was able to bounce it out.''
Several players had shots at recovering it, but linebacker Navorro Bowman pounced on it at the Buckeyes 38.
``(I was saying) 'We need a turnover, we need a turnover,''' Bowman said. ``We got one and that's what I believe got us the victory.''
The drama was far from over. On the Penn State sidelines, quarterback Daryll Clark was meeting with team doctors. He'd gotten hit hard on the preceding series. After taking a long look at him, they said he couldn't go back in because of a head injury.
So Penn State went to Plan B, which was backup quarterback Pat Devlin. He had seen action in seven games but had only been on the field for 45 plays.
He was as surprised as anyone to find he was going in.
Later asked what was wrong with Clark, he shrugged his shoulders and said, ``I have no idea. They just told me to go in.''
He led a seven-play, 38-yard drive that took 4:13 and ended with a 1-yard touchdown keeper that gave Penn State a 10-6 lead with 6:25 left. The big play in the march came on third-and-2 at the Ohio State 6 when Evan Royster, who finished with 77 hard-earned yards on 19 carries, skirted right end and tap-danced along the sideline for a 4-yard gain and the first down.
Penn State's defense then forced an Ohio State punt, and Devlin led the Nittany Lions back with a march that ate up all of Ohio State's timeouts and resulted in Kevin Kelly's 35-yard field goal with 1:07 left to push the lead to 13-6.
But the Buckeyes still had a last shot.
Pryor hit Ray Small on passes of 23 and 14 yards, but his throw to the end zone was badly off-line and was intercepted by Lydell Sargeant with 27 seconds left.
``When you turn over the ball twice in a game, everyone can say it's not my fault, but you really look at it, it is,'' Pryor said.
The Nittany Lions marked themselves as players in the national championship debate, along with fellow unbeatens Texas and Alabama. They also ended an 0-7 record at Ohio Stadium since they joined the Big Ten in 1993.
jor, night time showdown on national television.
``This year's not over,'' coach Jim Tressel said.

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