12:07 PM ET, September 15, 2007
Beaver Stadium, UNIVERSITY PARK, PA
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) -- Rodney Kinlaw has made a career out of standing on the sidelines, waiting for a chance to prove he can produce at Penn State.
On Saturday, the career backup finally got a chance to be star.
Kinlaw jump-started a sputtering offense with 129 yards and a touchdown, and Anthony Morelli threw for a career-high four scores as the 12th-ranked Nittany Lions defeated Buffalo 45-24.
"It's all about patience and being prepared when you get called on," said Kinlaw, who came into the game after starter Austin Scott had two early fumbles.
Penn State (3-0) also got a lift from a couple of lucky bounces that led to 17 points in the last 6:29 of the first half.
Jordan Norwood's 5-yard TD catch on a reviewed play gave Penn State a 17-3 lead with 59 seconds left in the half, swinging momentum the Nittany Lions' way.
"We weren't as sharp as we liked to be, but you got to give the other guy credit," said coach Joe Paterno, who won his 366th career game.
With the defense solid early, Kinlaw finally got the offense going after Scott's miscues.
One fumble came on the Penn State 8 when the ball appeared to slip out of Scott's hands without a defender nearby, setting up a Buffalo field goal and a 3-0 lead.
Scott appeared to have cemented the top tailback position after running for 116 yards last week.
Kinlaw, a senior who had 326 yards on 80 carries in his first three seasons at Penn State, stated his case Saturday by slipping and slashing through Buffalo on 23 carries. He had 17 rushes in the Nittany Lions' first two games this season.
"Nobody's a No. 1 tailback when you got two kids as equal as they are," Paterno said. "They're both first-stringers as far as I'm concerned."
It wasn't an entirely lost afternoon for the Bulls (1-2), which have won just 13 games the last eight-plus seasons. Drew Willy was 28-for-39 for a career-high 330 yards and a touchdown, directing a passing attack that moved the ball with ease in the second half.
James Starks' 5-yard scoring run with 11:55 in the fourth quarter was the first touchdown allowed this season by the Penn State defense.
"I'm still not going to pat myself on the back, but there's good things there," Buffalo coach Turner Gill said. "I'm more proud of the effort they put forth because that's something they can always control, no matter what's happening on the scoreboard."
Andrew Quarless' leaping catch in the end zone on a 21-yard pass from Morelli gave Penn State a 10-3 lead with 2:34 left in the first half. It was one of two TDs on the day for the tight end.
Then the breaks started going the Nittany Lions' way.
On Buffalo's next play from scrimmage, Penn State's Tony Davis leveled receiver Brett Hamlin after a short pass. The ball flew out of Hamlin's hands at the Buffalo 28, and was grabbed in the air by safety Anthony Scirrotto, who returned it 10 yards.
"Obviously, it looked like the kid tossed the ball to me so that's the luck part," Scirrotto said. "But coach, always in practice throughout the week, really pushes running to the ball because we're the last line of defense."
Four plays later on the Buffalo 5, Morelli threw high over the middle into the end zone. The Bulls' Mike Newton jumped trying to make an interception over Norwood but was inadvertently hit by teammate Jerry Housey, and the ball slipped off his hands.
Norwood, on his back in the end zone, reached out with his right arm and tucked the ball to his body just before it hit the ground to give Penn State a 17-3 lead.
After a replay review, officials confirmed the touchdown, angering Gill.
A reporter told Norwood it appeared the ball hit the ground.
"If you say so," he joked. "I was worried a little bit, but I felt like I caught it."
Morelli finished 20-for-27 for 202 yards. Scott returned from the bench in the second half and finished with nine carries for 53 yards and a 40-yard touchdown run.
"At the end, we played all right and showed that we can play with the big boys," Henry said. "We showed fight at the end, and that's what we need for every game."
Top 25 Overview
It was over when... Penn State realized it was playing Buffalo. The Nittany Lions sleepwalked through all but two minutes in the first half, scoring two quick TDs to take a 17-3 lead into halftime.
Gameball goes to... Anthony Morelli. The senior signal-caller connected on 20 of 27 passes, throwing for 203 yards and four touchdowns in a messy win for Penn State.
Stat of the game... 57. Buffalo, a Bottom 10 favorite, racked up the passing yards on Penn State (337) and controlled the clock -- but ultimately lost the game on the ground (just 57 yards).
Team Stat Comparison
|3rd Down Conversions||6-17||9-13|
|4th Down Conversions||1-2||0-0|
|FG||06:37||A.J. Principe 19 Yd||3||0|
|FG||06:29||Kevin Kelly 27 Yd||3||3|
|TD||02:34||Andrew Quarless 21 Yd Pass From Anthony Morelli (Kevin Kelly Kick)||3||10|
|TD||00:59||Jordan Norwood 5 Yd Pass From Anthony Morelli (Kevin Kelly Kick)||3||17|
|TD||12:39||Terrell Golden 27 Yd Pass From Anthony Morelli (Kevin Kelly Kick)||3||24|
|TD||11:55||James Starks 5 Yd Run (A.J. Principe Kick)||10||24|
|TD||08:07||Rodney Kinlaw 6 Yd Run (Kevin Kelly Kick)||10||38|
|TD||06:44||Ernest Jackson 9 Yd Pass From Mario Henry (A.J. Principe Kick)||17||38|
|TD||05:24||Andrew Quarless 4 Yd Pass From Anthony Morelli (Kevin Kelly Kick)||17||3|
|TD||04:02||Austin Scott 40 Yd Run (Kevin Kelly Kick)||17||45|
|TD||00:12||Laron Haymore 2 Yd Pass From Drew Willy (A.J. Principe Kick)||24||45|