The Sports Network
By Frank Haynes, Senior College Football Editor
GAME NOTES: In an interesting twist of fate, the undefeated team in this year's matchup between Keystone State rivals Temple and Penn State isn't the one you would normally expect, as the Owls bring an unblemished record to Happy Valley, while the Nittany Lions have already suffered a loss.
Temple is 3-0 for the first time since 1979 when the team went 10-2 and won the Garden State Bowl. The Owls have taken out defending FCS National Champ Villanova, fellow Mid-American Conference member Central Michigan, and Big East Conference foe Connecticut so far this season -- all at home. This game marks the first of three straight TU will play on the road, moving on to Army next week before diving back into conference play at Northern Illinois on October 9th.
Temple head coach Al Golden is a Penn State alum, having played tight end for the Nittany Lions from 1987-91. He also served as an assistant under PSU legendary head coach Joe Paterno in 2000.
Penn State comes into this clash having easily disposed of FCS foe Youngstown State, losing by three touchdowns at defending National Champion Alabama, and posting a shutout victory over Kent State. Temple marks the second straight MAC opponent for the Lions, who are 53-5-1 all-time against teams from that league -- 43-1 under Paterno.
Last week's 24-0 whitewashing of Kent State was the 41st shutout for the Nittany Lions under Paterno, and the 500th win for the team with him on the coaching staff -- a span of 61 years.
Penn State leads the all-time series with Temple, 35-3-1, and the Lions have won the last 27 meetings. The Owls' last victory in the series was way back in 1941. Last year, PSU took care of Temple in relatively easy fashion, winning 31-6 at Beaver Stadium.
Temple's 30-16 win over UConn last week was its first over a BCS school since 2004, and it set the school record for most consecutive home wins at eight. Heisman dark horse Bernard Pierce rushed for 169 yards and accounted for three TDs to fuel the TU offensive attack.
"Bernard started to take over, and I was reluctant to take him out," Golden said. "It turned into an in between the tackles game. I'm real proud of him. He took a couple of hits and I'm real proud of the way he performed."
The Owls, who got a 159-yard, one-TD passing performance from QB Chester Stewart, finished with 356 yards of total offense and won the game despite converting just 3-of-13 third-down opportunities. They averaged 6.1 yards per play and were a perfect 3-of-3 in the red zone.
Stewart remarked after the game about the positive vibe surrounding the team right now, "Each game we come together as a team and we play with a lot of poise and we have a lot of love for each other. We had a late fumble today and I'm thinking 'Oh, here we go again.' But we thrive off that, overcoming adversity, and it gives us more confidence."
Despite allowing UConn's Jordan Todman to rush for 192 yards, the Temple defense did enough to keep the Huskies at bay. The visitors actually outgained the Owls by 34 yards and picked up three more first downs, but the Huskies averaged just 4.5 yards per pass attempt as they finished with a mere 150 yards through the air with no TDs.
Elijah Joseph led the Owls with nine tackles (eight solo), while Jaiquawn Jarrett finished with seven and Tahir Whitehead logged 3.5 TFLs, including the Owls' lone sack on the day.
Penn State freshman QB Rob Bolden went 17-of-27 for 217 yards with a TD and two INTs, hitting Derek Moye four times for a game-high 87 yards, in last week's blanking of Kent State. Devon Smith added three grabs for 61 yards and a score, while the Penn State run game produced 162 yards and a pair of TDs against what had been the nation's top-ranked run defense coming in. Evan Royster finished with just 38 yards and a score, but it was good enough to get him past the 3,000-yard mark for his career, making him just the sixth player in school history to accomplish the feat.
The Lions wasted little time executing their offensive game plan, a fact Moye spoke about afterward, "I think that's something we want to do from the start, is to just go out there and get a fast start and put a few points on the board -- get some confidence in the offense and you know just go out there and play our game."
Defensively, the Lions were on top of their last game last week, limiting the Golden Flashes to 228 yards, of which only 58 came on the ground. As a result, Kent State became the 18th team in the last 29 games to fail to rush for 100 yards against the stingy PSU defense.
Stephon Morris led the way for the Lions with a career-high nine tackles, while Michael Mauti tied his career-high with seven stops.
Paterno, while cautioning against getting too high after a win, liked what he saw from his defense against the Flashes, "We were a little more sound defensively. We hustled to the ball a little bit better. I thought the tackling overall was a little bit better. We still have a long way to go. We were vague in one spot and we went a little bit backwards in other spots. But I think if we keep working at it, we will end up being a decent football team. But we got a ways to go yet."