When running back Evan Royster started the Penn State-Temple game with a 50-yard run from scrimmage, I yelled "break out game!"
I came to regret those words as Temple scored two touchdowns over our two field goals and my husband Terry kept yelling, "Break out game??? What, for Temple?"
I was, of course, thinking about Evan Royster, and the concerns surrounding his play during the first three games. Coach Joe Paterno was compelled to re-confirm Royster as starter in the press conference that week, and this play was surely a great exclamation point on Joe's position.
As it turned out, it was a break out game for Royster. He achieved a career high 187 yards on 26 carries, the most carries he has had in a PSU football game. However, none of Royster's carries resulted in a touchdown.
The only Penn State touchdown was scored by fullback Michael Zordich, a 1 yard scramble in the 4th quarter with only 3:35 minutes remaining in the game.
Credit the Temple defense and Head Coach Al Golden for keeping Penn State's offense out of the end zone until that point. Nick Sukay picked off a Temple pass at the end of the first half, but the offense couldn't capitalize. At the end of the half, it was 9-13 in favor of Temple.
The only reason Penn State got ahead was the steadiness of Kicker Collin Wagner, who made five of six field goal attempts plus an extra point to score 16 of Penn State's 22 points.
Our defense wasn't really present in the first half of the game. Missed tackles seemed to plague them. They did wake up, though, after half-time. Mike Mauti made 5 of his 7 tackles in the second half. Nick Sukay and Nate Stupar each picked off a Chester Stewart pass in the 3rd and 4th quarter.
Hmmm...will there be a game where the defense does more than be passive the first half? We will need that in the Big Ten!
Field position was a critical factor in this game, and Penn State often started with a deficit. Credit Temple's special teams punter Jeff Wathne, who pinned Penn State 3 times inside their own 20 yard line, averaging 44.7 yards per punt, including a key punt with 9:34 remaining in the 4th quarter, requiring that Penn State start their next drive on the 4 yard line.
At that point in the game I turned to Terry and said, "Now we need a Kerry Collins-like, time-chewing, 96-yard drive for a touchdown."
It wasn't quite as critical as it was at Illinois in 1994 - we were ahead by 2 points rather than behind - but such a lead wasn't exactly comfortable. We needed another score. A touchdown - 7 points - would likely clinch the game. If we scored another field goal it would give Temple a chance.
Well, it wasn't exactly Kerry Collins like, but the 12 plays it took to go 96 yards did take 6:04 off the clock. During that drive, Bolden completed a 19-yarder to Graham Zug and 2 passes to Justin Brown for 39 yards. Evan Royster rushed for 17 yards. Stephfon Green and Michael Zordich added small rushing gains.
And Penn State's offense finally broke through Temple's tight red-zone defense and scored the needed touchdown.
Penn State fans aren't used to such tension against in-state rival Temple. We are used to a "laugher", as Terry would call it: a blow-out 40-something score against a weak opponent who hasn't won a game against Penn State since the early 1940's.
But this is a renewed Temple team that played its heart out and was very well coached by Coach Al Golden. I hope that the Temple players don't get discouraged by this loss. They will do well - VERY well - in the MAC conference. They earned our respect today.
Temple deserves all the credit for creating a scare that will hopefully reap benefits for them as they play in the MAC and for Penn State as we enter Big Ten competition.
So now Penn State is 3-1 and our non-conference schedule is completed.
On to Iowa and the start of Big Ten play next week. Can't wait!