(Saturday, September 5th)
Final Score: (9) Penn State 31, Akron 7
University Park, PA (Sports Network) - Daryll Clark threw for a career-high 353 yards and three touchdowns, and the ninth-ranked Penn State Nittany Lions rode a strong first half to a 31-7 victory over the Akron Zips at Beaver Stadium.
Clark completed 29-of-40 passes and also threw an interception, as Penn State (1-0) improved to 37-7 in opening games under legendary head coach Joe Paterno, who ranks first in FBS history with 384 wins and is beginning his 44th season at the helm. Clark also set a school record with 254 passing yards in the first half, as the team scored all of its points before halftime.
"I thought (the passing game) was very good," Paterno said. "Some of the guys that we haven't seen much of made a couple big-time catches. We've got a little different type of passing game because of the size of the new receivers. I think overall, our kids did a pretty good job."
Penn State is gunning for its second consecutive Big Ten title after going 11-2 in 2008 -- 7-1 in the conference -- and advancing to the Rose Bowl, where it lost to USC.
Derek Moye, aiming to help replace the star-studded receiving corps the Lions had last year, caught six passes for 138 yards and a touchdown. Chaz Powell made seven catches for 65 yards and a score, while Graham Zug added five receptions for 62 yards and a touchdown. Evan Royster headed the rushing attack with 61 yards and a score on 14 attempts.
"I would have rather run it, but in all fairness, (Akron) had the 3-5 (defense) and put an awful lot of people around the football," Paterno said. "They made it tough to run. We could've thrown the ball more. In fact, I was arguing with the guys upstairs to throw a couple more passes. The line coaches wanted to work on the running game. When I saw what they were doing defensively, we had to throw it. We'll have to be a better running team."
Akron's offense was held in check most of the afternoon, as Chris Jacquemain went 13-of-22 passing for 158 yards with a touchdown and an interception. The Zips (0-1), who went 5-7 last year in their third consecutive losing season, garnered only 186 total yards of offense and didn't register a first down until the second half.
"I think they are the best defense we are going to see all year," Jacquemain said. "They were good up front, and they put a lot of pressure on me, which I expected. We couldn't handle it at times."
Deryn Bowser caught three passes for 63 yards and a score, but the team's rushing attack managed 28 yards on 30 carries in total.
Penn State received the opening kickoff and needed only seven plays to march 84 yards. Royster capped off the drive with a five-yard rushing score a little more than three minutes later.
The Lions held Akron to minus-six yards through their first two drives, and the home team got the ball at the Zips' 26 after a punt and a 15-yard penalty. In five plays, Penn State scored on Clark's eight-yard touchdown pass to Powell for a 14-0 lead with 3:43 to go in the first.
Penn State's offense hit a bit of a wall, though, as their next two drives ended in an interception and a missed field goal, respectively. A perfectly designed fake punt on the following drive led to a Collin Wagner 29-yard field goal with 6:15 left in the opening half.
After the fifth Akron punt of the game, the hosts embarked on a nine-play, 57- yard drive that ended when Clark hit Moye perfectly in the corner of the end zone on a 22-yard score with 1:33 remaining in the second.
Penn State held the Zips to another three-and-out -- getting the ball back 26 seconds later -- and Clark used three pass plays to go 66 yards. He hit Moye for 42 and five yards on the first and second play, respectively, and found Zug for a 19-yard score with 30 seconds to go for a 31-0 halftime lead.
Akron marched down to the Penn State two-yard line on its first drive of the second half but was stopped on 4th-and-goal. After recovering a fumble on the Lions' next drive, the Zips got on the board on Jacquemain's 40-yard touchdown pass to Bowser with 6:07 left in the third.
"In the touchdown pass, they were playing a lot of cover-two throughout the game, and we had a corner-post route where Bowser faked to the corner and went to the post," Jacquemain said. "With the cover-two, the middle is wide open, so that is what we had called on that play. We got six off of it, which is good."
Both defenses took over from that point. Neither team could add to their score for the remainder of the contest, as the Nittany Lions rolled to the victory.
Penn State improved to 102-19-2 in season-openers all-time and has a 57-12 record against non-conference opponents since joining the Big Ten...Wagner was 1-for-3 on field goal attempts for the Lions, who garnered 515 total yards of offense...Penn State leads the all-time series between the schools, 4-0...Attendance: 107,968.
09/05 18:12:25 ET