Royster, Clark lead Penn St. over Syracuse
Point guard-turned-Syracuse quarterback Greg Paulus got a good look at how to run an offense. Penn State’s own signal-caller, Daryll Clark, and do-it-all tailback Evan Royster provided the lesson.
Clark threw for 240 yards and three scores, Royster had two touchdowns and the No. 7 Nittany Lions contained the pesky Paulus in a 28-7 win Saturday at Beaver Stadium.
Paulus, the former Duke basketball player, performed relatively well for a second straight week, especially for someone who hadn’t played competitively on the gridiron since he was a high school star in 2004.
He finished 14 of 20 for 105 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions, both of which came on tipped balls. Alternating at quarterback with backup Ryan Nassib, Paulus threw mostly short, quick passes to counter Penn State’s pressure.
“This is his first crack for him, second game ever,” Penn State defensive coordinator Tom Bradley said. “Impressive kid, a lot of poise.”
Still, the Nittany Lions’ overall talent overwhelmed the Orange, even with Penn State playing choppy ball for a second straight week. Coach Joe Paterno’s offense specifically struggled in the running game, especially on short yardage in the red zone.
“We’ve played well enough to win two games, period, that’s all I know,” Paterno said, “and we got to get better.”
Unfortunately for the Orange, Penn State’s passing game was just fine.
Split wide, Royster turned a short throw into a 49-yard touchdown on the game’s opening drive, stutter-stepping around a safety to pull away into the end zone. Penn State is trying to throw a new wrinkle in the offense by splitting Royster wide more.
Royster added a 12-yard TD run to give the Nittany Lions a 14-0 lead in the second quarter. He finished with 41 yards rushing on 12 carries, and 61 yards receiving.
“Royster can do it all,” said Paterno, who improved to 23-4 against Syracuse since 1966, when he became head coach. “He’s a heck of an athlete.”
Wide receiver Graham Zug added career-highs of six catches and 79 yards, including a 20-yard scoring strike from Daryll Clark to give Penn State a three-touchdown lead in the third quarter.
More than enough cushion for the Nittany Lions’ active defense.
Jared Odrick led the push from the front four with six tackles and a half-sack. Linebacker Sean Lee had a game-high 13 tackles, and leveled any tailbacks out of the flat for his best performance since returning from a knee injury that kept him out last season.
Orange coach Doug Marrone tried to throw off Penn State by alternating quarterbacks, but it didn’t seem to work – especially in a first half in which the Orange managed just four first downs.
“I believe we’ll need both quarterbacks to help us with this year,” Marrone said.
Syracuse found more success in the second half with Paulus getting more time in the pocket. Going no huddle at times, Paulus hit passes on play-action, screens and rollouts.
“We missed chances to take advantage of some of the opportunities we had,” Paulus said.
A drive to the Penn State 5 in the third quarter ended when open receiver Mike Williams dropped a pass in the end zone on fourth down. Williams’ streak of 10 straight games with a touchdown catch came to an end.
A fourth-quarter drive was snuffed out after Lee sacked Paulus on the blitz for a 13-yard loss to the Penn State 36. Fans rocked the creaky Beaver Stadium stands celebrating another defensive stop.
Then in the fourth quarter, Paulus’ pass attempt deep in Syracuse territory was tipped by Odrick and intercepted by linebacker Nathan Stupar.
Paulus did connect with Donte Davis for a 16-yard touchdown pass for Syracuse’s only score late in the fourth quarter with Syracuse down by four touchdowns. The TD came one play after Penn State backup quarterback Kevin Newsome lost a fumble on a sack by Mikhail Marinovich.
Paulus said it wasn’t tough sharing time with Nassib, who was 4 of 5 for 30 yards.
“We’re both going to do whatever coach asks us to do, and we know that coach is going to put us in the best position for us to be successful,” Paulus said.
One of Syracuse’s most impressive moments came on defense in the first half, when they held Penn State out of the end zone from inside the 2 on four straight plays. The drive ended with a bad snap that led to Syracuse’s Mike Holmes recovering a fumble on his own 2 on fourth down.