Nittany Lions make case for No. 1 ranking with 63-14 romp over Ohio State Wins sweet, rosy for Neb., Penn State

October 30, 1994|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,Sun Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- If Penn State failed to maintain its No. 1 ranking yesterday, at least the Nittany Lions affirmed their place as a national championship contender and established themselves as the undisputed kings of the Big Ten.

Penn State also left an indelible bruise on an Ohio State team that thought it could disrupt the Lions' homecoming party. The Lions, who have made a habit of abusing opponents with the nation's best offense, produced their most jaw-dropping exhibition of the season against the 21st-ranked Buckeyes.

Penn State scored on five of its first six possessions to bolt to a 35-0 halftime lead, then cruised to a 63-14 laugher before 97,079, the largest crowd ever at Beaver Stadium.

The only suspense in Happy Valley pertained to speculation surrounding today's Top 25 poll voting. Will No. 3 Nebraska, which rolled to a 24-7 victory over second-ranked Colorado, vault over Penn State, or will the Nittany Lions retain their top ranking?

"Hopefully, we impressed some people," deadpanned Ki-Jana Carter, Penn State's remarkable senior tailback. "If we're not No. 1 tomorrow [today], that's just going to make us more hungry."

Penn State could not have stated a stronger case for retaining its position. The Lions, led by the devastating offensive trio of quarterback Kerry Collins, Carter and wide receiver Bobby Engram, handed Ohio State its worst beating in 48 years.

The Nittany Lions (7-0, 4-0) also extended their winning streak to 12 games -- second longest in the country behind Auburn -- by avenging their last defeat, a 24-6 loss at Ohio State (6-3, 3-2) a year ago.

The most telling difference between those two Ohio State games is the stunningly rapid development of Collins.

Last year against the Buckeyes, Collins had just been installed as the starter, and he played poorly. Yesterday, Collins took the field as the nation's top-ranked passer, and he sent his quarterback rating skyward with a performance that earned him more Heisman Trophy consideration.

Collins completed 19 of 23 passes for 265 yards and two touchdowns. He teamed up with six different receivers, hitting Engram and running back Mike Archie for scores. He also got some help from Archie and Engram, who combined for several outstanding grabs.

"The offensive line did an outstanding job. When you have all day back there, you can find the open receiver," Collins said. "I'm not a guy who does things for himself, but I came into this game thinking about last year's game [at Ohio State]. That was a low point for me. This is as well as I've played.

"We're never satisfied. We still know we can get better. We have a sense of urgency. We have to get better."

"If somebody is better than Kerry Collins, they've got to be from NTC out of this world," Penn State coach Joe Paterno said. "Collins and Carter are both at a level where it's difficult for anybody to play as well as they're playing at their positions."

Carter, showing no lingering effects from the dislocated thumb he suffered four weeks ago, punished the Buckeyes with a 19-carry, 139-yard day that yielded a career-high four touchdowns, including three in the first half.

Engram rounded out the game's top performances with six catches for 102 yards and a touchdown, which he earned with a terrific, diving catch that gave the Lions a 21-0 lead in the second quarter and got the rout rolling.

In all, Penn State torched the Buckeyes for a perfectly balanced 572 yards -- 286 yards passing and running -- and 33 first downs, the most ever under Paterno. The Lions' 63 points also were a season high.

"They've [Penn State] got everything," Cooper said. "They're as good as I've seen offensively. They may be the best offensive team I've seen since I've been coaching. I don't see anybody beating them."

The Lions followed a familiar script -- get on top early, then put the offensive pedal to the metal.

For the fifth time this year, Penn State set the tone by scoring on its first possession.

The Lions drove 73 yards on eight plays, four by Carter, who finished the drive with a 20-yard scoring run. Brett Conway's extra point made it 7-0, barely four minutes into the contest.

Ohio State's next two possessions set the tone for its afternoon. The first drive ended when Josh Jackson's 40-yard field-goal attempt hit the left upright. On their next drive, the Buckeyes drove to the Penn State 33, then lost 1,000-yard running back Eddie George to a sprained ankle, when he was tackled after a botched screen pass.

The Lions promptly forced a punt and moved in for the kill. A 96-yard, 13-play drive ended on Carter's 1-yard run that made it 14-0 with 10:40 left in the half. Then, Engram's full-extension diving effort resulted in a 15-yard score.

Engram topped that moment with a one-handed stab that netted 12 yards and set up Carter's 36-yard burst up the middle that made it 28-0 with 3:25 left in the half. Archie's leaping, 15-yard catch with 35 seconds left gave the Lions a 35-0 halftime lead.

Penn State has outscored its opponents in the first quarter, 106-12. In the first half, Penn State holds a 227-45 scoring edge.

What's more, the Lions' suspect defense appears to be coming around. They produced their best showing of the year, holding the Buckeyes to 12 first downs and 214 yards and an average gain of 3.3 yards per play. A considerable amount of those yards came after Paterno began clearing his bench in the third period.

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