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Oct. 16, 1999

%^$Game Stats

By RICHARD ROSENBLATT
%^$AP Football Writer

%^$

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) – Don’t be deceived by the final score: No. 2 Penn%^$State’s 23-10 victory over No. 18 Ohio State was a rout, plain and simple.%^$

Had the Nittany Lions not stubbed their toes nearly every time they moved%^$inside the Buckeyes 25-yard line, who knows how large the winning margin would%^$have been?%^$

“We should have put 40 on the board,” fullback Mike Cerimele said Saturday%^$after catching a 6-yard touchdown pass from Kevin Thompson on the game’s%^$opening possession. “We had two field goals blocked, we stopped ourselves%^$inside their 25 all day.”%^$

Then he pointed to his noggin: “Stupid head problems. We have to cut them%^$out or it will catch up to us.”%^$

Penn State (7-0, 3-0 Big Ten) wasn’t about to be caught by Ohio State (4-3,%^$1-2), which managed only 11 first downs and 143 total yards while the Nittany%^$Lions were rolling up 422, including 306 on the ground.%^$

Eric McCoo slipped tackles from get-go and finished with a career-best 211%^$yards on 22 carries, including runs of 53, 43, 24 and 22 yards. He also caught%^$four passes for another 47 yards as the Lions won their ninth straight game -%^$the second-longest winning streak among major schools behind Marshall’s 10 in a%^$row.%^$

“We didn’t do anything different,” said McCoo, a sophomore whose previous%^$top game was a 206-yard effort against Michigan State last season. “Everybody%^$thinks we’re fooling people. We’re just running off tackle.”%^$

The Nittany Lions also gave Joe Paterno career win No. 314, tying him for%^$third place with Amos Alonzo Stagg for most victories among major college%^$coaches. Bear Bryant has 323, and Pop Warner 319.%^$

Paterno, in his 34th season, was more concerned with mistakes than history.%^$The Lions were penalized 10 times for 85 yards and Kevin Thompson fumbled in%^$the end zone to hand the Buckeyes their only TD of the game.%^$

“We were in scoring position and then our own carelessness and bad plays%^$took us right out of it,” Paterno said. “There was absolutely no reason for%^$(the blocked field goals). That could have cost us the game.”%^$

But the Lions’ best defensive effort of the season made sure Ohio State and%^$quarterback Steve Bellisari couldn’t take advantage. Bellisari ran for his life%^$as the Beaver Stadium crowd of 97,007 roared in approval. The left-hander was%^$sacked eight times – 2 1/2 credited to linebacker LaVar Arrington – and was%^$7-of-21 for 78 yards and an interception.%^$

“We could not get the ball rolling today,” said Bellisari, who left the%^$game for one play with 2:32 left after taking a vicious hit from Arrington in%^$the upper chest. “I saw a lot of him. He got to me, knocked me down, knocked%^$the wind out of me.”%^$

Penn State led 13-3 with 3:40 left in the half, but was backed up to its own%^$6 when Thompson was slammed from behind by linebacker Na’il Diggs and fumbled,%^$with free safety Gary Berry recovering in the end zone for a touchdown.%^$

Thompson sustained a slightly separated right shoulder on the play and sat%^$out the rest of the game. His status for next week’s game against Purdue was%^$uncertain.%^$

With Rashard Casey running the offense in the second half, Penn State scored%^$on its first possession to take a 20-10 lead. Casey, who has alternated with%^$Thompson all year, capped a seven-play, 62-yard drive with a 5-yard TD run on a%^$perfectly executed bootleg, faking two handoffs, putting the ball on his hip%^$and rolling left past a baffled Buckeyes defense. Casey was 11-of-15 for 109%^$yards.%^$

Travis Forney, who had field goals blocked in the first and third quarters,%^$converted from 38, 39 and 28 yards, the final one coming early in the fourth%^$quarter.%^$

The loss not only dropped Ohio State out of the big bowl picture, but%^$probably ended their chances for a Big Ten title as well. The Buckeyes,%^$three-game losers this early for the first time since coach John Cooper’s first%^$season in 1988, still have games remaining against nationally ranked Michigan%^$State and Michigan.%^$

“If you can’t block and you can’t tackle then you are not going to beat a%^$good football team,” said Cooper, who earlier in the week said Penn State%^$would win if both teams played their best. It was a psychological ploy that%^$failed.%^$

The Lions wasted little time moving to a 7-0 lead. Thompson hit McCoo with a%^$20-yard pass to open the game, and then McCoo slipped two would-be tacklers%^$with nifty inside cuts and ran 53 yards to the Ohio State 7. Two plays later,%^$Thompson connected with Cerimele just 1:35 into the game.%^$

Ohio State’s Dan Stultz kicked a 47-yard field goal midway through the%^$quarter, but the Lions made it 10-3 on Forney’s 38-yard field goal four plays%^$after holder Matt Senneca ran 10 yards for first down on a fake field goal.%^$

Now, Penn State’s run for its first national title since 1986 moves forward.%^$Ahead are road games against Purdue, Illinois and Michigan State and home games%^$with Minnesota and Michigan.%^$

“We are far from the finish line,” linebacker Brandon Short said. “We get%^$Drew Brees next week, and that’s what we’ll get ready for.”%^$

Paterno, saying his players have been besieged by fans and reporters all%^$season, cut off most interviews this week in a rare policy change.%^$

After the game, McCoo said: “Everybody was going to say what they say every%^$week, anyway. We just didn’t have to practice our speech.”