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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa., September 5, 2009 - Daryll Clark was more than comfortable with his new starting wideouts and re-vamped offensive line and the Penn State defense did not permit Akron to earn a first down in the first half as the Nittany Lions rolled to a 31-7 win in the season opener for both teams.
Penn State took a 31-0 halftime lead, rolling to 344 yards. The Nittany Lions did not allow Akron a first down and only eight net yards in the opening half. Penn State improved to 102-19-2 (83.7) in season openers, having won 17 of its last 19 and improving to 37-7 (84.1) under Joe Paterno in openers.
Penn State is 41-11 (78.8) since the start of the 2005 season and has won 43 of its last 54 contests (79.6) dating to the last two games of the 2004 season. The Nittany Lions have won 28 of their last 30 games in Beaver Stadium, dating to the Senior Day win over Michigan State in 2004.
A senior co-captain, Clark set career-highs with his 29 of 40 effort for 353 yards. He threw three touchdown passes, good for No. 2 in his career. His 29 completions were tied for No. 2 in school annals (Zack Mills vs. Purdue, 2004) and his passing yardage was fifth-highest. In the first half, Clark was 17 of 25 for 254 yards, breaking the school record for first half passing. The previous mark was 231 yards by Anthony Morelli vs. Florida International in the 2007 season opener.
In his first career start, sophomore wide receiver Derek Moye had a superlative day, setting career highs with six receptions for 138 yards and one touchdown. Moye made four catches of 20 yards or more, including a leaping 42-yard effort to get the Lions deep into Akron territory and set-up a Clark touchdown pass to Graham Zug with :37 left in the half for a 31-0 lead. Sophomore wideout Chaz Powell also set career highs with eight catches for 65 yards, including an eight-yard TD grab in the first quarter. Zug set career-bests with five catches for 62 yards and a score. Sophomore fullback Joe Suhey, who made his first start, also had career-highs with four catches for 40 yards.
Junior tailback Evan Royster opened the scoring on a five-yard with just 3:42 elapsed in the game. He finished with a game-high 61 yards on 14 carries, as Penn State rolled to 515 yards of total offense. The offensive line featured three new starters and the two returnees, senior Dennis Landolt and junior Stefen Wisniewski, were in different positions from last year.
The Nittany Lion defense was relentless, not allowing a first down until the third quarter and only 186 yards (158 passing, 30 rushing) for the game. Penn State recorded 13 tackles for loss, including four sacks, and sophomore safety Andrew Dailey grabbed an interception.
Junior linebacker Navorro Bowman left the game early with a minor injury and sophomore Nate Stupar made the most of the opportunity, racking up a career-best 12 tackles (eight solo), with a sack. In his first game since the 2007 Alamo Bowl, senior linebacker Sean Lee made seven stops, with two for minus-yardage. Junior DT Ollie Ogbu made a career-best six hits, including 2.5 TFL, and senior DT Jared Odrick made four tackles, including two TFL for minus-seven yards.
Penn State took the opening kickoff 84 yards in seven plays for its opening score of the season. A 36-yard completion from Daryll Clark to Derek Moye got the Lions deep into Akron territory. Evan Royster scored on a five-yard run with 11:18 left in the first quarter. Collin Wagner's PAT kick made it 7-0.
The Nittany Lions took a 14-0 lead with 3:43 left in the first on eight-yard pass from Clark to Chaz Powell for his first career touchdown reception. Penn State quickly regained possession, as sophomore safety Andrew Dailey grabbed his first career interception, returning it 12 yards to the Zips' 26 yard line. But, a Clark pass went off Powell's hands and was intercepted by Mike Thomas at the Akron 4.
Midway through the second quarter, punt protector Dailey took a direct snap and burst up the middle for a 37-yard gain to the Akron 21. Wagner connected on a 39-yard field goal to make it 17-0 with 6:15 left in the half.
Penn State extended its lead to 24-0 on a beautiful 22-yard pass from Clark to Moye in the end zone. Wagner's PAT was good with 1:33 left in the half. The Nittany Lions forced a punt and took over on their own 29 with 1:07 to play. Clark connected on a 42-yard strike to a leaping Moye at the Akron 24. Two plays later, Clark fired a 19-yard scoring strike to Graham Zug in the end zone for a 31-0 lead with :37 left in the half.
Penn State rolled to 16 first downs and 344 yards in the first half (254 passing, 90 rushing), while limiting Akron to no first downs and eight total yards (25 passing, minus-17 rushing).
Akron took the first possession of the second half and picked up three first downs, advancing to the Penn State 2. But, one fourth-and-goal, Zips' quarterback Chris Jacquemain was stuffed by Nate Stupar and the Lions took over at the one. Penn State advanced to midfield, but Brett Brackett was hit after a catch and lost the ball, with Akron's Mike Thomas recovering on the PSU 40. On first down, Jacquemain hit Deryn Bowser for the Zips' lone score of the day, making it 31-7 with 6:07 left in the third.
Penn State had five first time starters on offense (LG Matt Stankiewitch, RG Lou Eliades, RT DeOn'tae Pannell, WR Derek Moye and FB Joe Suhey) and five first time starters on defense (LE Eric Latimore, RE Jack Crawford, LCB Knowledge Timmons, Hero Nick Sukay & RCB D'Anton Lynn).
Penn State hosts Syracuse on Saturday, Sept. 12 at 12:00 p.m. The Orange will playing in Beaver Stadium for the first time since 1990. The contest will air on the Big Ten Network, the Penn State Sports Network and GoPSUsports.com. Syracuse lost to Minnesota, 23-20, in overtime on Saturday.