AJ McCarron passed for 163 yards and a touchdown for the Crimson Tide (2-0), who had beaten Penn State in Tuscaloosa last season by a 24-3 score.
"Penn State is a much better team than they were a year ago in my opinion. They are very good up front on defense, they really hold on defense," said Alabama head coach Nick Saban.
Saban also said he thought his team's running game wore the Lions down, and that McCarron did a good job managing the game. However different Penn State is from a year ago, the outcome of this year's matchup wasn't much different because of the Nittany Lions' ineffective offense.
Penn State (1-1) gained only 251 yards because of shaky quarterback play. Matt McGloin completed just one of his 10 pass attempts, while Rob Bolden was 11- of-29 for 144 yards and an interception.
"It's a big-time defense we played today," McGloin said. "They had nine returning starters and you don't find that too often. It was a great challenge for us today."
Silas Redd totaled just 65 yards on 22 carries, and scored the lone touchdown late in the fourth quarter for the Lions, whose 23-game home non- conference winning streak was broken.
Even though Penn State's first drive ended up with a 43-yard field goal from Evan Lewis, it was an inauspicious start. With Bolden under center, the Lions burned three timeouts and moved only 54 yards in 7 1/2 minutes.
But that was a great success compared to the rest of their drives during the first half. Penn State proved ineffective three consecutive times, gaining zero net yards, before tight end Andrew Szczerba fumbled at midfield to end another possession. The clock stopped the Lions' final first-half drive.
While Penn State's offense struggled, Alabama built a lead.
Late in the first quarter, McCarron completed consecutive passes of 29 and 14 yards to bring the ball to the Penn State 12. The Tide were faced with a 3rd- and-3 at the five, but McCarron converted it with a touchdown strike to tight end Michael Williams with 25 seconds left in the opening frame.
Richardson helped drive Alabama deep into Lions territory early in the second quarter, but Penn State's defense held and Jeremy Shelley kicked a 22-yard field goal for a 10-3 lead.
Szczerba's fumble set Alabama up with a short field, and it needed 10 plays to reach the end zone again. After McCarron completed a 12-yard pass to Kevin Norwood on 3rd-and-3 to get the ball to the three-yard line, Richardson ran up the middle, diving forward through the pile to crack the goal line.
The score gave the Tide a 17-3 advantage, which they carried into the locker room.
Penn State didn't have much offensive improvement in the second half. The Lions punted three times, fumbled once, and had another drive end with an interception before finally reaching the end zone.
Redd's one-yard run with 1:53 to go ended a 14-play, 71-yard march -- by far the Lions' longest of the game.
But by then, Alabama's lead had grown. Shelley kicked an 18-yarder with 4:50 left in the third quarter, and Richardson's 13-yard run with 6:14 left in the fourth quarter ended a five-play, 65-yard march.
Penn State head coach Joe Paterno was again situated in the press box because of arm and hip injuries suffered during an August 7 practice...The meeting was the first at Beaver Stadium since 1989...Alabama leads the series, 10-5. The schools memorably met in the 1979 Sugar Bowl for the national championship, which the Tide won, 14-7...The game was the only Big Ten-SEC regular-season contest scheduled this year...The Tide totaled 359 yards and held the ball for 34:05.