Penn State pops Northwestern bubble Wildcats' Big Ten streak shattered in 34-9 blowout

November 03, 1996|By Jason LaCanfora | Jason LaCanfora,SUN STAFF

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Northwestern quarterback Steve Schnur squatted helplessly at his own 35-yard line, attending to an injured offensive lineman while a pack of Penn State players charged toward the end zone with the ball Schnur had fumbled after being blindsided.

The snow was falling harder than it had all day. The noise created by 96,000-plus fans at Beaver Stadium was at its peak. The menacing sound of a roaring lion blared from the public-address speakers.

It was that kind of day for the Wildcats.

Schnur's fumble late in the second quarter resulted in a Nittany Lions field goal, stretching the Penn State lead to 24 points. It was one of three Wildcats turnovers in the first half that led to 13 Penn State points.

That first-half dominance catapulted the Nittany Lions to a 34-9 victory, ending Northwestern's 13-game Big Ten winning streak and dropping the Wildcats from first place in the conference.

The No. 15-ranked Nittany Lions, needing the win to stay in contention for a big-time bowl game, raised their record to 8-2 (4-2 Big Ten).

"I think that's probably the best game we played all year," Penn State coach Joe Paterno said. "I never expected we'd win by that many points, but I really thought we'd win this football game."

The Wildcats (7-2, 5-1) were in the game early. All-America running back Darnell Autry, back after missing a game with a shoulder injury, rushed for 50 yards on his first 11 carries. But as the Wildcats fell farther behind, they had to turn to a usually effective passing game to catch up.

Northwestern did nothing through the air yesterday when it counted. Schnur, the Big Ten's leader in passing efficiency, was 4-for-12 in the first half and was sacked seven times. D'Wayne Bates, the Big Ten's leading receiver, didn't catch a pass until the second half, when the game was well out of reach.

"We probably put one stunt in there they hadn't seen before," Paterno said. "I think our kids just took off and weren't worried about not getting to them. We played as well as we could defensively."

Meanwhile, Nittany Lions quarterback Wally Richardson, who was almost benched for this game, completed eight of 12 first-half passes for 181 yards and one touchdown -- with assistance from wide receiver Joe Jurevicius.

Jurevicius caught a 51-yard over-the-shoulder bomb from Richardson on the Nittany Lions' second play of the game. Richard- son said he was so nervous he could barely call the play, but Jurevicius knew what was coming.

"That guy has been making plays for me," Richardson said. "I think that was the big play in the game to get things started for us. It helped my confidence."

The two hooked up again for a 17-yard play on Penn State's second possession. Running back Curtis Enis, who finished with 167 yards rushing, did the rest, bouncing to his left for a 39-yard touchdown scamper.

Richardson and his favorite target did it again on the third drive. Jurevicius got open down the right sideline, broke a tackle at the Northwestern 40, changed fields and sprinted to the goal for a 63-yard touchdown.

Penn State went on to score on its first five possessions and the rout was on.

Pub Date: 11/03/96

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