Football: Rockets Tame Nittany Lions, 24-6

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Sept. 2, 2000

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    AP Sports Writer

    STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) - Toledo is tired of hearing questions about its conference. Now people might stop asking.

    Chester Taylor ran for 141 yards, including two touchdowns, and Tavares Bolden threw for 140 yards and one touchdown as Toledo beat Penn State 24-6 on Saturday.

    Penn State, which had never lost to a Mid-American Conference opponent, fell to 0-2 for the first time since 1990.

    "It's the biggest win of my career," said Toledo coach Gary Pinkel, who improved to 3-3 against the Big Ten. "It's great for the conference. It's great for the University of Toledo."

    Toledo (1-0) hadn't beaten a top opponent since opening the 1997 season with a 36-22 victory over Purdue.

    "What better place for the Rockets to show we can play than here. They're Penn State," defensive end Leo Frierson said.

    Taylor had touchdown runs of 13 and 1 yards as Toledo took a 17-0 halftime lead. The Rockets made it 24-0 on a 13-yard pass from Bolden to Lyle Green on the first possession of the third quarter.

    "It's the biggest win so far, but a bigger win is a bowl game," Taylor said. "That'll be the next big win. We proved we can play with anybody as long as we play together."

    Penn State has lost five consecutive regular-season games for the first time since dropping seven straight in 1931.

    The Nittany Lions entered the season with questions marks on defense after losing nine starters, including Courtney Brown and LaVar Arrington, the top two picks in the NFL draft.

    But the Nittany Lions, who lost 29-5 to No. 12 Southern California in the Kickoff Classic last Sunday, might miss Kevin Thompson and Chafie Fields more.

    Penn State's offense hasn't been able to produce, and went six quarters without a touchdown.

    After gaining just 142 yards, including 6 rushing, against Southern Cal, Penn State had 166 yards against Toledo - 64 in the first half.

    "I think we need to take a realistic look at whether we are any good," Penn State coach Joe Paterno said. "We have not played a decent offensive football game in two weeks."

    Thompson, who threw for 1,916 yards and 13 touchdowns last season, made the Cleveland Browns' roster as a third-stringer. Fields, a flanker who accounted for 830 total yards in 1999, was among the final cuts for the San Francisco 49ers.

    With Rashard Casey starting his third career game - he led Penn State to a 24-0 victory over Texas A&M in the Alamo Bowl last season - the Nittany Lions went three-and-out on their first two possessions.

    Taylor's 13-yard run gave Toledo a 7-0 lead with 10:12 left in the first. A 24-yard field goal by Todd France made it 10-0 with 3:06 remaining in the first.

    "They're a top-notch team. They're physical," guard Jim Harding said. "Our first drive helped us a lot. The defense got us good field position. It really set the tone."

    Penn State didn't get a first down until Casey scrambled for five yards on a third-and-1 with 1:35 left in the first.

    The play drew mock applause from the crowd of 94,296 at Beaver Stadium. The fans booed loudly when Penn State receivers dropped three straight passes before settling for a field goal attempt in the second quarter.

    "Well if you can't run the football, you have to throw it," Paterno said. "And if you can't catch it when you throw it, you have some problems."

    The Rockets made it 17-0 when Taylor ran in from the 1 with 32 seconds left in the half. The touchdown capped a 14-play, 83-yard drive that consumed 6:07.

    "It was crucial for us to go in with a score," Harding said. "We knew they would make adjustments."

    Penn State finally scored its first touchdown as Casey improvised a 61-yard pass to Larry Johnson that cut it to 24-6 with 7:27 left in the third. Ryan Primanti missed the extra point.

    Casey scrambled right, stopped just before running out of bounds, jumped and threw across his body and over several defenders to Johnson, who ran untouched to the end zone.

    Casey was 5-of-13 for 98 yards. He was replaced by Matt Senneca in the fourth quarter for the second straight week.

    The Nittany Lions moved inside Toledo territory for the first time in the second quarter, but the drive stalled at the 29 and David Kimball hooked a 46-yarder - his first field-goal attempt.

    Penn State, which fell out of the Top 25 for the first time in eight years after the loss to USC, hadn't lost a home opener Texas beat them 17-13 in 1990.

    Paterno remains seven victories shy of breaking Bear Bryant's Division I-A record of 323.


    Post-Game Quotes Toledo-Penn State

    Head Coach Gary Pinkel

    "I'm really proud of my staff and my players. Obviously it's a great win for the University of Toledo. I thought our players felt they could win the football game from the beginning."

    "I'm a little bit numb right now. The whole time the clock's ticking down and you're still keeping your guard up. You have to have your guard up so you don't lose that lead."

    "We've got a long way to go to be a great team, but hopefully we can use this win from a momentum standpoint."

    "I was pleased with the way we played, but I also think that's a real good Penn State team. You're talking about perhaps the greatest coach there ever was. Will he get this turned around? No question."

    "Today we were the better team."

    "Yeah, it would be the biggest win of my career. It's a great win. It's great not only for the University of Toledo, but it's great for the prestige of our conference."

    "If you're running the ball well, you keep running it. If you're controlling the line of scrimmage, you lean on that."

    "I said they were going to make a play in the second half, and we were going to have to respond to it to get the momentum back. And we did. We kept our poise."

    (Chester Taylor) "He doesn't surprise me. He's very talented. He could have started for the championship teams at Washington when I coached there. He just needs to stay healthy and hold on to the ball."

    "Any time you go into a stadium and you control the game, the crowd's gone."

    "It's the underdog rule: the longer you keep an underdog in the game, the stronger they get."

    "We played as good as I could ever have imagined against Penn State."

    "When it was about a minute and a half left and we go another first down, I actually looked at Jehu Anderson and I said, `You know what? We're going to win this game.'"

    "Am I shocked that we did it? No. But I also know that we played our best game."

    Junior Defensive End Leo Frierson

    "I feel the MAC is just as good as any other conference. I just play my opponent. I don't care what the name is on his jersey. I just try to get it done."

    "I wasn't surprised. We just played hard. We just got after it. It's just a great feeling. They're a good team. But we have a lot of players up front that just got after it."

    "We don't care what outside people think. If we did, we would have come in here with our heads down."

    "I feel they got frustrated. We were getting after them. They're a running team but they were passing a lot. That's a sign of frustration to me."

    "Today is one of the greatest games we've played. We've been young the last couple of years but we're coming together as a unit. We put it together. What better place to show the Rockets can play than Penn State."

    "To me, the better team won. To call it an upset is cowardly. Just because a team fro ma lower conference beats you is it an upset? The MAC can't have good players? I don't feel that way. I feel we came out and lined up, big on big."

    Sophomore cornerback Jehu Anderson

    "We felt they had a good quarterback. We thought they had nice receivers, so we just wanted to stop the beat passes and contain the long play."

    "We're very proud of the way we played today."

    Senior offensive tackle Jim Harding

    "We knew going in that they were a physical team up front. Our coaches did a good job of getting us ready."

    "Chester Taylor and Antwon McCray are top-notch running backs. Our job is to stay on our men and let them do their thing. They did a real good job today."

    (late score in first half) "We knew it would be crucial going into halftime with a score. We knew they would make some adjustments so it was important for us to put points on the board and keep our defense off the field."

    "The first drive helped us out. The defense gave us great field position and we set the tone with that first drive."

    "Tavares played a great game, maybe one of the better games he's played here. All week you could see it in his eyes that he was ready for this game. He thrives on the big crowd. We knew he was going to come in and have a big game."

    "If you don't come in believing you can win, you're already beaten. There isn't a person in the locker room that didn't believe we could do what we did."

    Junior free safety Andy Boyd

    "We represented the MAC well today. I know Western Michigan played Wisconsin tough the other night. There are good players in the MAC. We have good teams in the MAC. The exposure may not always be there, but you have to take advantage of the opportunities of playing a top-notch program such as Penn State."

    Junior offensive guard Matt Comer

    "We came out in the second half knowing we had the ball first and knowing we had to score. When we scored we didn't feel we had the game in hand yet. I don't feel the game is in hand until the final horn sounds."

    "It's real good for our program, for our school, our team and the MAC to get exposure and show we can play with a Big Ten team."

    "They came as hard as they could on every play. Up front it was a battle till the end. They never gave up."

    "I do think it's a bit of a rollover from last season. We knew at the end of last season what it would take to be where we want to be. We knew the kind of effort and attitude it would take."

    Senior Tailback Chester Taylor

    "This is the biggest win so far, but the biggest win will be when we win the Motor City Bowl."

    "The offensive line kicked the d-line off the ball, so we just read the holes and ran through them. I give them all the credit. If it wasn't for them, I wouldn't have done what I did. So I give it up to them."

    "All the off-season work paid off, all the therapy and treatment."

    (will this win stop questions about the MAC proving itself?) "It should. It's up to you all (in the media). We proved it today. If you need some more proof, I don't know what to do."

    (would Toledo win a rematch?) "As long as we came to play and executed, I believe we would. They're a good team. But I gues we were the better team today."

    Junior Quarterback Tavares Bolden

    (11-19 on third down conversions) "It was team effort. We were having success on third down at the end of last year and we wanted to continjue that this year. If you convert on third down you can keep drives alive."

    (five straight passes to start game) "We wanted to open up the game and get me going. We tried to get the passing game going. We got that, and that just opened up the running game."

    "Our offensive line did a great job. I felt they (Penn State) were getting tired fro mbeing o nthe field so long."

    "We just wanted to come in and get a victory. A one-point win is just as good as a 20-point win."

    (a perfect game?) "Pretty close. Everything went well on both sides of the ball and on special teams. We didn't turn the ball lover. We got a takeaway at the end of the game, which really helped."

    "It felt great to see that we did have some fans come in from out of town. We just wanted to show them some love."

    "It all starts up front. The offensive line did a great job today. If we get a great job from them every game, it will become easier to run the ball."

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