STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) — Zach Zwinak ran for three touchdowns and Allen Robinson set Penn State’s single-season receptions mark, leading the Nittany Lions to a 45-21 win over Purdue on Saturday.
Zwinak had a pair of 1-yard TD runs in the first half and a 5-yard score in the second, boosting his season total to 12. Robinson’s fifth catch of the game was his 78th of the season, topping the 77 catches he had last season. He also holds Penn State’s single-season yards receiving record.
Christian Hackenberg threw a touchdown pass and ran for one to help the Nittany Lions (6-4, 3-3 Big Ten) clinch at least a .500 record. The Nittany Lions are still suffering from the sanctions the NCAA levied in the Jerry Sandusky scandal and are not eligible for a bowl game.
Raheem Mostert had a 100-yard kickoff return for the Boilermakers (1-9, 0-6).
Again, the Nittany Lions proved their resiliency under second-year coach Bill O’Brien and improved to 7-1 after a loss the last two seasons. The Nittany Lions haven’t lost two straight games since they started 0-2 last season. They finished 8-4 in 2012 and can’t have a losing record this season with games left against Nebraska and at Wisconsin. Led by O’Brien, those are solid achievements from a program many expected would be decimated in the wake of the scandal that also stripped scholarships.
The 90,000-plus fans don’t quite pack Beaver Stadium like they used to — Penn State announced an attendance of 96,491, though the stadium was nowhere near that full, and scores of blue seats were empty behind one end zone.
Even the late arrivers missed a taste of Penn State’s early dominance. The 1-2 backfield combination of Bill Belton and Zwinak each rushed for scores in the first quarter for the 14-0 lead. Belton rushed for 201 yards in the last home game against Illinois and Zwinak hit 150 yards in last week’s loss against Minnesota. They combined for more than 200 yards rushing against a Purdue defense that entered allowing 5.3 yards a carry.
Zwinak’s second TD and Hackenberg’s 8-yard touchdown pass to Adam Breneman helped Penn State build a 28-14 halftime lead.
Mostert answered Hackenberg’s score with a 100-yard kickoff. He caught the ball just a step inside the end zone, broke through a hole around the 5 and bolted down the middle for the thrilling run. Purdue’s Danny Etling had a 2-yard TD pass to Justin Sinz in the first second quarter.
Purdue had just 1 yard rushing in the first half; Penn State had 182.
Etling’s 11 yard rush sliced the deficit to 28-21 early in the third, giving the Boilermakers hope they could end their lengthy conference losing streak. The Boilermakers, who had been shut out twice already in the Big Ten play, scored their most points in a conference game this season.
Penn State crushed that thought with two more scores in the third. Sam Ficken kicked a 29-yard field goal and Zwinak’s third touchdown of the game made it 38-21.
The Boilermakers were simply too sloppy to mount a true upset bid, committing three turnovers, including a lost a fumble late in the fourth, leading to Hackenberg’s 4-yard scramble to make it 45-21.
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