for this game

Penn State buckles down on defense, gets revenge vs. Notre Dame

Sep 9, 2007 - 3:39 AM STATE COLLEGE, Pennsylvania (Ticker) -- Penn State once again looked like a real contender in the Big Ten Conference. Conversely, Notre Dame looked like anything but a national powerhouse.

Austin Scott rushed for two touchdowns and the 14th-ranked Nittany Lions stymied Notre Dame's sputtering offense en route to a 31-10 victory Saturday night.

With the win, Penn State (2-0) exacted a measure of revenge against the Fighting Irish, who rolled to a 41-17 triumph when these teams met last year in South Bend. The Nittany Lions beat Notre Dame for the first time since November 6, 1991, and improved to 9-9-1 all-time against the Irish.

"This is definitely a big win," said senior wide receiver Terrell Golden, who had two catches. "Notre Dame is a great team and we just wanted to come out and see where we stacked with them.

"It just feels good. We went to South Bend and did not have such a hot time, but starting the season off (this year) 2-0 is great."

Penn State was impressive in last weekend's season-opening 59-0 victory over Florida International.

With Michigan falling to 0-2 on Saturday and Ohio State looking lethargic in a 20-2 win over Akron, the door is wide open for the Nittany Lions to contend for the Big Ten title.

But Saturday night's contest certainly started in inauspicious fashion for Penn State, as Notre Dame jumped out to a 7-0 lead on cornerback Darrin Walls' 73-yard interception return for a score.

But Penn State remained resolute, limiting Notre Dame (0-2) to just 144 yards of total offense while sacking freshman quarterback Jimmy Clausen six times. The Nittany Lions also stuffed Notre Dame's ineffective ground game, which was held with without a rushing yard.

"I thought we played well," Penn State coach Joe Paterno said. "It's tough for a young quarterback to come in here with the crowd. I thought the crowd was phenomenal and made it tough to play.

"When you have a freshman quarterback, there are certain things you don't want to try, so they kind of limited themselves with him."

The Irish have managed a total of minus-eight rushing yards over their first two contests and are 0-2 for the first time since 2001, when they finished 5-6.

"As the game went on, I was disappointed with how many three-and-outs we had," Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis said. "It wasn't just the three-and-outs, because sometimes three-and-outs don't kill you when you are being conservative."

Meanwhile, the Nittany Lions moved the ball methodically behind Scott, who finished with 116 yards on 28 carries. Rodney Kinlaw chipped in 49 yards on just nine carries for Penn State, which finished with 164 yards on the ground.

"It felt great getting that many carries," Scott said. "I am thankful that the coaches called that many running plays. It was a nice number to get into a rhythm."

"(Scott) is a good, solid back and he's learned to wait for the opening and then accelerate," Paterno added. "He's a strong back. He'll get better as he goes on. He's got to stay healthy, though, which I hope he will."

After throwing the first-quarter interception to Walls, Penn State quarterback Anthony Morelli directed the offense efficiently and finished 12-of-22 for 131 yards and one TD.

Penn State forged a 7-7 tie with 52 seconds left in the opening quarter when Derrick Williams reeled off a 78-yard punt return for a score.

"I think everything was set up right," Williams said. "The other guys on the touchdown return did a great job. I had the easy part of just running. One thing that the coaches always stress is just getting the ball down the field."

The Nittany Lions took the lead for good with 6:37 left in the first half when Morelli found Jordan Norwood on a crossing route for a 10-yard scoring strike to make it 14-7.

The teams exchanged field goals early in the third quarter before Penn State took a commanding 24-10 lead on Scott's first TD of the game, a one-yard plunge with 4:47 left in the period.

Clausen looked shaky in his first career start, completing 17-of-32 passes for 144 yards and one interception.

"You want the kid to leave with a decent taste in his mouth," Weis said. "And if you go from the middle of the first quarter right through the third quarter, the offense was just sputtering and sputtering, then you don't want to leave the field and feel that you have nothing going."