PISCATAWAY, N.J. — Breaking down Penn State’s 13-10 victory against Rutgers:.
THE BIG PICTURE: Representatives from the Rose Bowl and Orange Bowl were in attendance to watch two teams with little chance of reaching either destination in January. Yet one is undefeated, and still — technically — in the mix for a premier bowl berth: Penn State weathered an ineffective offensive line, an inconsistent running attack and continued special teams woes to sneak out a 13-10 win. In its Big Ten Conference debut and in front of a school-record 53,744 fans, Rutgers suffered its first loss of the season.
With the win, on the other hand, Penn State stands as the lone undefeated team in the Big Ten East Division and one of just two unblemished teams in the entire conference, joining Nebraska.
WHAT WE’LL BE TALKING ABOUT: Penn State’s fantastic week continues. There was the easing of substantial NCAA sanctions: On Monday, the NCAA ruled that Penn State would be eligible for the postseason in 2014 and would be allowed to reach an 85-scholarship limit in time for next season. On the same day, the Big Ten ruled that Penn State would likewise be eligible for the conference title game. In beating Rutgers, the Nittany Lions moved to 3-0 for the first time since 2009.
THE DECIDING PLAY: Penn State’s scuffling offense took over at its own 20-yard line with three minutes left in the fourth quarter, trailing 10-6, and immediately flipped the field: Christian Hackenberg hit wide receiver Geno Lewis on a 52-yard gain, with Lewis catching a quick slant and doing much of the heavy lifting — shrugging off two would-be tacklers and making a beeline for the sidelines, sprinting down the left side to the Rutgers 27. Three players later, after a potential touchdown pass was negated by holding, Hackenberg found Lewis again for a 23-yard gain to the Rutgers five. Two players, Bill Belton would take dive into the end zone to give Penn State a 13-10 lead with 73 seconds left.
KEY STAT Rutgers quarterback Gary Nova threw five interceptions. He’s now tossed multiple interceptions in 11 starts for the Scarlet Knights.