STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- A sluggish start on a dreary day clouded up No. 8 Penn State's dreams of the Rose Bowl for a half.
Nothing that Daryll Clark or a stifling defense couldn't shake off, though.
Derrick Williams ran for one score and caught a touchdown pass, Clark threw for 240 yards and two scores in an uneven outing, and the defense held Indiana to six first downs in the Nittany Lions' 34-7 victory Saturday.
Beat No. 15 Michigan State next week at home and the Nittany Lions (10-1, 6-1 Big Ten) can lock up a trip to Pasadena -- a nice consolation prize after seeing their hopes for a national title take a serious blow with the loss Nov. 8 at Iowa.
"I told the whole football team ... just go out there and have some fun, relax," coach Joe Paterno said.
As if next week wasn't important enough, the 81-year Paterno revealed after the game that he may need hip replacement surgery after the regular season. JoePa spent the afternoon in the press box again because a sore hip and right leg make it to difficult for him to pace the sideline.
"I wish we could talk about my football team instead of my leg," said Paterno, who notched his 382nd career win.
The six Indiana first downs were the fewest ever allowed by Penn State against a Big Ten opponent. The Hoosiers managed just 180 yards on the afternoon, and could muster just 36 yards and one first down after halftime.
Heavy underdogs coming into Beaver Stadium, Indiana (3-8, 1-6 Big Ten) trailed just 10-7 at halftime in large part because of miscues by Penn State. One drive ended after Clark fumbled at the Indiana 1, while Kevin Kelly missed a 40-yard field goal attempt to foil another effort.
Momentum swung after halftime to the home team.
Tailback Evan Royster bounced off three Indiana tacklers like a pinball on a 19-yard touchdown run to put Penn State up 17-7. Royster finished with 63 yards on 12 carries.
The defense then pinned Indiana deep on the next drive with a three-and-out. Kelly kicked a 36-yard field goal to extend the lead to 13 with 8:20 left in the third quarter before Clark hit Deon Butler on a slant from 6 yards out to push Penn State ahead 27-7 about five minutes later.
Bundled up in ponchos and slickers under a cold, off-and-on rain, the relatively subdued Penn State faithful could finally breathe a sigh of relief.
"I felt like in the second half they were coming with more pressure, they seemed like they had more enthusiasm," said tailback Marcus Thigpen, who led Indiana with 72 yards on eight carries, including a 57-yard touchdown.
Linebacker Josh Hull led the way in an all-around effort with seven tackles and a sack, while defensive end Aaron Maybin added to his Big Ten lead with his 12th sack of the season.
"Honestly, I think it was Penn State's game," Indiana coach Bill Lynch said when asked about his squad's season-long struggles in the second half. "I think they're a great defensive team."
Indiana also had injury woes, missing three starters in the secondary. Hampered throughout the season by a sore ankle, quarterback Kellen Lewis struggled under withering Penn State pressure and finished 9-of-21 passing for just 57 yards and an interception.
Williams had a 39-yard touchdown catch over the middle to give Penn State a 7-0 lead, and he added a 36-yard scoring run on an end-around in the fourth quarter. The senior captain finished with 62 yards on four receptions, and 61 yards rushing on four carries.
Yet the Hoosiers still had designs on an upset after hanging tough through the soggy first half.
Thigpen bounced out from a crowd on a run up the middle and found two blockers around the edge to escort him untouched down the sideline for his long TD run that silenced the crowd and evened the score at 7-7.
But the second half has been a problem all year for the Hoosiers, who came into the game being outscored 163-68 after halftime, and Saturday was no different.
Butler finished with 56 yards on five catches. He broke the school's career reception record of 167, previously held by Bobby Engram.
The win drew Penn State even with Michigan State for first place in the Big Ten. The Spartans were idle on Saturday.