3:30 PM ET, November 16, 2002
Memorial Stadium (Bloomington, IN), Bloomington, IN
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (AP) -- Larry Johnson outdid himself -- and every other running back in Penn State history Saturday.
Larry Johnson ran for 327 yards and four TDs against Indiana.
Johnson ran for 327 yards, a career-high four touchdowns and shattered a 31-year-old school rushing record as he led the 16th-ranked Nittany Lions to a 58-25 victory at Indiana.
Then he stayed humble. When asked whether he should be regarded as one of the best backs in school history, Johnson was modest.
"No, you could ask me that 100 times and I'd say the same thing,'' Johnson said. "Those guys were the great ones, they paved the way for me.''
There was no question about where Johnson's performance Saturday ranked.
He turned in the game of a lifetime, breaking his own single-game school rushing record for the third time this season and surpassing Penn State's single-season record midway through the second quarter. Lydell Mitchell set the previous mark of 1,567 in 1971. Johnson also passed John Cappelletti and Ki-Jana Carter, and finished the game with 1,736 yards.
Not only that, Johnson set a Memorial Stadium record for yards rushing by an opponent, breaking a 17-year-old mark set by Michigan State's Lorenzo White. White ran for 286 yards.
Johnson displayed his power and explosiveness on touchdown bursts of 69, 43, 1 and 41 yards as Penn State (8-3, 4-3 Big Ten) won its third straight game.
Coach Joe Paterno, who has an NCAA-best 335 career wins wasn't surprised.
"I've said before he's a heck of a back,'' Paterno said. "He's smart, he's gotten to be a good blocker. You can see he's a tough kid. If he breaks a tackle, if he gets free, he just outruns everybody.''
The Hoosiers (3-8, 1-6) found out quickly.
Johnson outgained Indiana 327-275 on the ground. He averaged 11.7 yards on 28 carries, and once he shot through the middle, the Hoosiers proved no match.
Johnson ran through them, over them and around them as Indiana lost its fifth straight.
"Larry Johnson had something to do with it,'' Hoosiers coach Gerry DiNardo said. "We got manhandled a lot up front.''
While he had help from Zack Mills, who threw for 137 yards and two touchdowns, Johnson almost single-handedly allowed Penn State to overcome its early mistakes.
His first two touchdowns erased Indiana leads and his last two helped seal the victory.
Johnson was just as dangerous when he wasn't scoring. He broke free for runs of 25, 21 and 41 yards, and consistently kept drives moving.
"Obviously, each defense has a weakness and we try to find it,'' Johnson said. "It looks easy, but it really isn't.''
It wasn't easy at first.
Mills led Penn State on a 47-yard touchdown drive on its opening possession and had the Nittany Lions within striking distance again. But Indiana's Kris Dielman deflected a pass and Buster Larkins picked it off and raced 59 yards for a touchdown.
John Kerr's interception on the next series set up a 6-yard TD pass from Tommy Jones to Courtney Roby, although a missed extra point and a failed conversion run gave Indiana only a 12-7 lead.
Johnson changed that. On the next offensive play, he broke through the middle and sprinted past the Hoosiers' defense for a 69-yard touchdown that gave Penn State the lead.
The next time Johnson touched the ball, he raced 43 yards for a score to make it 21-18. He broke Mitchell's record on the next series, on a 25-yard run.
"We're blitzing, trying to cover every gap,'' DiNardo said. "We're having trouble matching up.''
Johnson made sure there were no changes in the second half.
He opened the third quarter with a 1-yard TD run and added a 41-yard touchdown run early in the fourth quarter to make it 45-25 -- putting the game away and putting himself in the record books.
"If he gets in the secondary, he's pretty tough to tackle,'' Paterno said. "He's a big, strong kid, who runs hard with the football, who's tough, who loves to play.''