UNIVERSITY PARK - What a game for an arm-chair quarterback.
Penn State's 23-18 win over Purdue on Saturday at Beaver Stadium lacked sheer beauty but compensated in some wild plays and even more questionable calls.
Mirror photos by Patrick Waksmunski
Penn State’s Chaz Powell holds off Purdue kicker Carson Wiggs on a 92-yard kickoff return to the Purdue 3-yard line in the fourth quarter on Saturday.
n There were three returns, two kickoffs and an interception, of 50-plus yards. That doesn't include the fumble Stephon Morris scooped up and zig-zagged 40-plus yards across the field that was eventually reviewed, called an incompletion and overturned.
n There was Penn State trying to run a reverse - yes, another reverse - in the red sea, er, zone with 14 seconds left in the first half.
n There was Purdue, down just 7-6 and seemingly trying to kill the clock, having its backup quarterback - yes, the Boilermakers are trying to playing the two-headed game, too - throwing an ill-advised pass that Nate Stupar intercepted, and the Lions turned into a field goal and a 10-6 halftime lead.
n There was Penn State, having just put Iowa away by stuffing the ball down the Hawkeyes' throat in the fourth quarter, throwing a first-down pass from the Purdue 23 into a gusty 25 mph wind, into the end zone, and a potential 27-12 lead was intercepted and brought back to midfield.
n There was Purdue going for a fourth-and-3 from its own 8 with two minutes to go and all three of its timeouts in its pocket.
But the most questionable call came on maybe the game's biggest play.
After the Boilermakers cut PSU's lead to 20-18 with 8:08 remaining, Lion kickoff returner Chaz Powell bolted 92 yards to the Purdue 3.
Exhuberant, he flipped the ball in the air after being tackled - not even that high - and was hit with a 15-yard penalty.
"Everything was going haywire today," defensive coordinator Tom Bradley said.
Referee Dave Witvoet explained the penalty to Bradley, who deals with the officials when Joe Paterno is in the press box, which he was for the entire game Saturday.
Sought for his reaction to the call, Bradley said, "Don't ask me."
And then he told us: "It shouldn't be a rule. If he [Powell] walked in backwards and taunted, I get it, but that [Saturday's alleged indiscretion], I'm not sure."
Powell was. He agreed with a reporter's characterization of the rule as "goofy."
"They thought maybe I was trying to get attention, but I was excited," he said.
Powell actually didn't even know the Nittany Lions were pushed back to the 18, from where, of course, they were forced to settle for a field goal and a 23-18 lead - rather than a likely touchdown that would have knocked Purdue out.
He thought he tweaked his knee and had quickly hustled to the bench for treatment.
"I heard [the penalty] on the loudspeaker," he said. "I got a little upset because I didn't think it was."
Witvoet, who has often been at the center of controversy involving Penn State (see 2002 game vs. Michigan), said Powell's violation was clear.
"I had announced [No.] 6, but it was No. 2, who was the returner," Witvoet told a pool reporter. "He [Powell] jumped up, and he threw the ball up in the air. It's an unsportsmanlike call, 15 yards. It's a point of emphasis. It's drawing attention to yourself, a celebration-type thing."
The call could have been huge had Penn State lost. In no way did he demean Purdue, but Powell accepted the verdict.
"That's the rule. You have to call that," he said. "If I could do it all over again, I'd hand the ball to the official."
Nonetheless, the Lions overcame it.
They got a field goal to extend their lead, and then their defense and special teams (Anthony Fera's 69-yard punt pinned Purdue at its 2 with 2:36 left) finished it off.
And they're now 6-1.
Though haven't been overly impressive, and they certainly weren't Saturday, they can still feel good about themselves.
But, apparently, they better not flip the ball into the air.
Rudel can be reached at 946-7527 or email@example.com.