Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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Running Away With It: Penn State tops NU 34-13

After Northwestern gave No. 12 Penn State a scare for 45 minutes, Daryll Clark and the Nittany Lions’ offense rose from the dead to doom the Wildcats. NU surrendered 21 fourth-quarter points on three consecutive plays and Penn State ran away with a 34-13 win.

“We lost our attitude,” coach Pat Fitzgerald said. “And when you lose your attitude, you lose your stinger and you lose your physicality.”

The Cats’ out-of-the-gate gaffes haunted them once again Saturday. On NU’s second play from scrimmage, senior quarterback Mike Kafka fumbled on a playaction fake and Penn State recovered on NU’s 23 yard line. The Cats’ defense held strong, and it held the Nittany Lions to a field goal.

NU opened the second quarter with a 73-yard drive capped off by a seven-yard touchdown scramble by Kafka. The Cats’ 10-3 lead marked the first time the Nittany Lions had trailed before halftime all season. The strong start surprised Penn State coach Joe Paterno.

“I don’t think we had quite realized how good they are offensively,” he said. “And it took us some time to speed up the tempo.”

On the fifth play of the Cats’ next drive, Kafka saw a hole in the line of scrimmage and took off. But Kafka’s foot got caught in the grass and he fell in what seemed like slow motion at NU’s 33- yard line. The senior gunslinger clutched his left leg, and one play later he left the game with an apparent hamstring injury. He did not return.

The Cats controlled Penn State’s powerful defense in the first half, racking up 246 yards of offense and 13 points. Coming into the game, Penn State’s defense was holding opponents to 240 yards of offense and nine points per game.

“When (Kafka) was in there, I don’t think they stopped us once,” Fitzgerald said. “We stopped ourselves a couple times. We had a good plan and were executing it pretty well.”

But NU’s offense couldn’t carry the momentum into the second half, and it totaled just two yards of offense in the third quarter. Its only first down came on a Penn State penalty. Still, the defense held the Nittany Lions to a field goal, and the teams went into the fourth quarter tied at 13.

After that Penn State took control and never looked back.

The Nittany Lions scored three touchdowns in four minutes to start the fourth quarter. In that same span, the Cats compiled 35 yards of offense on seven plays.

“We didn’t do our job in the fourth quarter,” senior safety Brad Phillips said. “Penn State took advantage of it when we didn’t do our job and they made plays.”

Part of NU’s problem in the second half was its offense’s inability to spread the field. Backup quarterback Dan Persa, a sophomore, threw for 86 yards in the third and fourth quarters. The Nittany Lions adjusted their game plan once they saw Kafka go down, Paterno said.

“We did a couple of aggressive stunts that we wouldn’t have probably done with the other kid,” he said.

The Nittany Lions’ move paid off, and they sacked Persa four times in the second half.

“I have to throw the ball away and not take big sacks,” Persa said. “A lot of times, on first and second down, normal downs, I would take a big sack and put us behind the chains. It’s hard to convert third-and-15, third-and-10 plus.”

Fitzgerald said Persa played well but he can’t do it alone.

“He was running for his life for a bunch of the fourth quarter,” Fitzgerald said. “I was proud of the way Danny went in there. There was no doubt he was ready to go. Unfortunately, it looked like we didn’t make any plays.”

While Fitzgerald was disappointed with the team’s second half play, it wasn’t the first time they had lost a late lead. Of their four losses, the Cats have only trailed once entering the fourth quarter.

“I feel like a broken record because that is what has been happening to us in games,” Phillips said. “We’ve been close and teams have taken advantage of us when we haven’t done our jobs properly.”

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Running Away With It: Penn State tops NU 34-13