CFB: No. 19 Penn St. holds off Indiana, 31-20
GENARO C. ARMAS
AP Sports Writer
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — Penn State nearly made Senior Day one to forget for its seniors.
Linebacker Navorro Bowman had a momentum-turning 73-yard interception return for a touchdown, Evan Royster scored twice and the sloppy Nittany Lions overcame four first-half turnovers — including two fumbles on special teams — to defeat Indiana 31-20 on Saturday.
Senior quarterback Daryll Clark added a 13-yard touchdown pass to Royster but threw two picks and didn't look sharp in his final game at Beaver Stadium.
A pair of standout juniors — Bowman and Royster — made sure their older teammates went out on top.
After Collin Wagner's field goal bounced off the right upright in the third quarter, Indiana quarterback Ben Chappell engineered a nice drive into Penn State territory — until his screen pass was tipped in the air by running back Trea Burgess.
Bowman snatched the ball at his own 27, then rumbled down the field with an escort of blockers for a touchdown to give Penn State its first lead, 17-10 with 6:54 left in the third quarter.
Bowman ended the Hoosiers' next drive by tipping away a third-down pass over the middle, the linebacker pumping his arms as he trotted back to the sideline. Bowman has been mentioned as a potential early entry into next spring's NFL draft, and he made plays Saturday sure to be added to his already-impressive highlight reel.
Penn State turned to the run on the ensuing drive, with Royster and backup tailback Stephfon Green softening up Indiana's Big Ten-worst defense before Royster rushed in from two yards out for a touchdown and 24-10 lead with 14:57 left.
Royster finished with 95 yards on 17 carries and 39 yards receiving on four catches.
Indiana responded with a nice drive to the Penn State 21, but the Nittany Lions' defense came up big again on third down when safety Nick Sukay leveled receiver Mitchell Evans at the goal line, causing the Hoosiers to settle for a field goal.
The Hoosiers have made a habit this season of hanging tough early in road games before letting leads slip away. They have led at Michigan, Northwestern and Iowa before findings ways to lose.
It happened again Saturday.
Penn State (9-2, 5-2 Big Ten) tried to help Indiana (4-7, 1-6) by fumbling away two punt returns in the first half.
Coach Joe Paterno's D also had trouble early with Indiana's no-huddle attack, falling behind 10-0 on Ben Chappell's 26-yard touchdown pass to Damarlo Belcher midway through the first quarter.
Chappell finished 32 for 51 passing for 298 yards, plus one interception and two TDs, while Belcher had nine catches for 95 yards.
Clark's TD pass to Royster near the end of the first half tied the game at 10. Clark was 17 for 28 for 194 yards, along with 29 yards rushing and a score on seven carries.
Then defensive end Jerome Hayes, back deep as a blocker, had a nice run on a short kickoff to start the second half before fumbling at midfield.
The ball was recovered by Penn State, but the 100,000-plus in attendance let out a collective groan over more special teams mistakes by the Nittany Lions, a season-long theme.
But momentum finally turned Penn State's way about eight minutes later thanks to Bowman's big play. He finished with 12 tackles.