No. 5 Penn St. rolls over Temple
After two pedestrian weeks, the shifty tailback put on one of his trademark performances in sidestepping around tacklers and bouncing off defenders for 134 yards and a touchdown in No. 5 Penn State's 31-6 win Saturday over the Owls.
And to think, just two days earlier, Royster was laid up with what he thought was the flu.
"The first quarter was kind of tough for me, my legs kind of felt like they were gone," Royster said. "They just felt more tired than they usually are, but I went out there and just kept playing."
Temple couldn't stop him in a first half in which Royster ran for 119 yards, leading the Nittany Lions to a 21-3 lead.
Later, Paterno said about 15 or 16 players had fallen ill during the week with flu-like symptoms, though most were able to play Saturday. Five or six players had fevers, while Royster was one of the other Nittany Lions who otherwise "felt lousy," Paterno said.
Others sickened earlier in the week were tight end Mickey Shuler and star linebacker Sean Lee, who limped off the field in the fourth quarter with what was later termed a minor lower left leg injury. Teammate Josh Hull said Lee had a cramp and would be OK.
Standout defensive tackle Jared Odrick also said he had felt ill the last few weeks, but was feeling better. Some of the sick players, including Royster, were isolated at times from the rest of the team.
"We worried about it. ... We tried to space their time a little bit," Paterno said about the illness. "It was a hit-or-miss kind of thing."
The illnesses might explain some of Penn State's choppy play against overmatched opponents to open the season. The trend continued against Temple:
-Quarterback Daryll Clark finished 16 for 26 passing for 167 yards with an interception and two touchdowns, but didn't look sharp and took some big hits from Temple defenders.
-Kick coverage still needs work after allowing Temple an average of 25 yards per return.
-Temple quarterback Vaughn Charlton was 15 of 33 passing for 205 yards, and was able to move the ball well at times on the Nittany Lions' tough defense.
Owls coach Al Golden said his team wasn't intimidated. With two field goals, Temple scored more points against Penn State than in the three previous games combined.
"This was really the first year I heard guys say, 'Hey, let's go up there and win,' as opposed to 'Let's just try to survive,"' said Golden, a former player and assistant under Paterno. "It didn't work out, but at least they had a good attitude going into the game."
And yet, illness and all, Penn State still overwhelmed the Owls with talent.
Lee finished with 12 tackles and a sack, while Odrick added another sack. Safety Drew Astorino recovered a fumble forced by tackle Ollie Ogbu.
Penn State hasn't given up more than seven points in each of its three wins - the first time that has happened since the first four games of 1996.
The small contingent of Owls fans held out hope of an unlikely upset after Brandon McManus' 25-yard field goal cut the Penn State lead to 7-3 at the end of the first quarter.
Then, on the first play of the second quarter, Golden surprised his old boss when the Owls recovered an onside kick. But Temple went three-and-out on its ensuing drive, as the Owls failed to score a touchdown against Penn State for the fourth straight year.
"When you have shots against Penn State, you've got to convert them," Golden said. "We didn't do that."
The Nittany Lions had no such problem on offense.
A drive that started on the Temple 35 ended with Royster steaming up the middle from the 7, bouncing off defenders like a pinball into the end zone with 5:46 left in the first half.
Set back by the illness, Royster said he felt his "legs were dragging" until midway through the second quarter. Later, Royster had 33 yards on three carries on a drive that ended with Clark's 4-yard TD pass to Derek Moye to make it 21-3 just before halftime.
Paterno inserted Johnnie Troutman into the starting lineup at left guard, and the offensive line responded with its best outing of the year after struggling its previous two games.
Just in time for the Big Ten opener next week, a prime-time matchup with Iowa at Beaver Stadium.
"Timing is everything with our run game. Running a zone offense is all based on timing," Royster said. "If we block the way we do this weekend, we'll be fine."