E Michigan grounded at Penn State, 34-6
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP)
It worked to an extent. But if the Eagles took better care of the ball, they might have had a better chance of pulling off an unlikely upset in Happy Valley.
But Penn State cashed in on two of Eastern Michigan's three turnovers, including Derek Moye's 5-yard touchdown catch with 56 seconds left in the first half set up by Nick Sukay's interception, to defeat the Eagles 34-6 on Saturday.
Until that point, Eastern Michigan trailed the more talented Nittany Lions by only 10.
''I thought defensively we came out and played really well in the first half. The last turnover really hurt our team,'' Eastern Michigan coach Ron English said. ''I thought if we go into halftime 10-0, we're still playing and it's a close game.''
Gillett finished 18 of 31 passing for 202 yards, and ran for 22 yards on 15 carries. The Eagles were held to two field goals by Kody Fulkerson.
But Penn State (3-1) held the Eagles (2-2) to 68 on the ground - 221 below its season average.
Defensive tackle Devon Still led the push up front and Penn State sacked Gillett three times alone in the first half. Tailback Javonti Greene to nine carries for 22 yards, more than 90 below his season average, and the Eagles played a second straight week without Dominique Sherrer (right ankle), the other half of their running back tandem.
Still, the Eagles' passing prowess Saturday was a mild surprise given Eastern Michigan had the sixth-best rushing attack in the FBS entering Saturday.
English wasn't too chatty afterward with reporters and declined to make his players available to the media.
''We know that we're going to have to throw the ball in our league, and we needed to work on it. So we wanted to throw the ball a certain number of times in this game,'' said English, who hoped to throw the ball at least 20 times.
Matt McGloin threw for three touchdowns in helping the team welcome coach Joe Paterno back to the sideline in the first half for the first time this season before returning to the press box after halftime with his team up comfortably. The Hall of Famer spent the first three games entirely upstairs while recovering from injuries suffered from an accidental collision in practice Aug. 7.
The defense contained Eastern Michigan, though the injury news wasn't good on the field for Penn State. Linebacker Michael Mauti, the team's leading tackler, limped into the locker room in the first quarter with an ice pack strapped to his left knee.
Later, Paterno said Mauti was likely out for the year after injuring his ACL.
The announced crowd of 95,000 at Beaver Stadium went silent while trainers looked at cornerback D'Anton Lynn's neck and upper back late in the third quarter. Lynn was strapped to a backboard as a precaution and carted off the field late in the third quarter. A team spokesman said Lynn had movement in his extremities and was taken to Mount Nittany Medical Center.
Lynn had ''burners'' down his arms and was breathing heavily after the hit, defensive coordinator Tom Bradley said after the game.
It dampened the mood late in what had been a nice afternoon for the Nittany Lions.
''I feel sorry for the kids,'' Paterno said. ''It does take a little out of the win, but that's the way it goes.''
Wearing his familiar khakis and jet-black sneakers, Paterno looked back in his element Saturday as he paced the sideline slowly and found coaches or players to pester.
The defense provided enough cushion to give Penn State's struggling passing game and two-quarterback system a chance to get back on track. The Nittany Lions scored through the air for the first time all season, and both McGloin and sophomore Rob Bolden got in on the fun.
Bolden started the game. He finished 7 of 13 passing for 115 yards an interception, plus a screen to speedy receiver Devon Smith that turned into a 71-yard touchdown pass for a 24-0 lead a minute into the second half. It was Smith who accidentally ran into Paterno after running a route in practice to give the head coach his latest ailments.
Saturday, Smith impressed his coach after finishing with three catches for 104 yards.
Moye finished with six catches for 65 yards and two scores. Both were from McGloin, who was 14 of 17 passing for 220 yards after entering in the second quarter.