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Nov. 3, 2007
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Senior All-America linebacker Dan Connor (Wallingford, Pa.) closed out his final game in Beaver Stadium in style, becoming Penn State's career tackles leader as the Nittany Lions defeated Purdue, 26-19, on Senior Day in front of 108,318 fans.
Seventeen Nittany Lion seniors were introduced before the game and helped Penn State improve to 17-1 in Senior Day games since 1990.
Connor's 11 tackles, including one for loss, gave him 379 stops, moving him past All-American Paul Posluszny (372) and into the all-time tackle lead. Junior Sean Lee (Pittsburgh, Pa.) led all players with 12 tackles and two forced fumbles, including a crucial strip and recovery at the goal line in the first quarter.
Senior quarterback Anthony Morelli (Pittsburgh, Pa.) was 22 of 35 (62.9) for 210 yards, with one touchdown and no interceptions. He threw a five-yard touchdown pass to junior wide receiver Derrick Williams (Greenbelt, Md.) in the second quarter to tie the game, 10-10.
Morelli's 210 yards passing today give him 2,060 this season, making him the first Penn State quarterback to have at least 2,000 yards passing in multiple seasons. Morelli had 2,424 passing yards last season, which was third highest in a single season.
Redshirt freshman tailback Evan Royster (Fairfax, Va.) also had a strong performance, recording his first career 100-yard rushing game, totaling 126 yards and one touchdown on 21 carries (6.0). Williams made a career-high 10 receptions for 95 yards, ran 12 yards for the go-ahead touchdown in third quarter, and gained a career-best 151 all-purpose yards.
In his final Beaver Stadium appearance, tailback Rodney Kinlaw (Goose Creek, S.C.) ran for 84 yards on 12 attempts (7.0), as the Lions gained 461 yards - 251 rushing and 210 passing.
Purdue got on the scoreboard just 14 seconds into the game courtesy of a 98-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Dorien Bryant. The play was the first kickoff return for a touchdown against the Nittany Lions since West Virginia's Kerry Marbury returned the opening kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown October 30, 1972 in Morgantown. Penn State won the game, 28-19, over the Bobby Bowden-coached Mountaineers
Penn State started the ensuing drive on its own 10-yard line, with a 15-yard Boilermaker penalty for a late hit out of bounds on Morelli giving the Nittany Lions first down on their own 37. Kinlaw rush for 15 yards and Morelli passes of 11 yards to sophomore Chris Bell (Norfolk, Va.) and 10 yards to Williams moved the offense down the field but the Purdue defense held the Nittany Lions to a field goal. Junior Kevin Kelly's (Langhorne, Pa.) 26-yard attempt put Penn State on the scoreboard, 7-3, with 10:23 remaining in the quarter.
The Boilermakers' Bryant ran 39 yards with the ensuing kickoff before being pushed out of bounds by Kelly. After two first downs, Purdue's Chris Summers booted a 45-yard field goal to give the Boilermakers the 10-3 lead with 8:47 remaining. Following a three-and-out by Penn State, Purdue received the ball on its own 24-yard line and drove the length of the field over the next 7:46, only to have the Lion defense hold steady and make a huge play. Lee swiped the ball from running back Jaycen Taylor on the Penn State's 1-yard line in a momentum-swinging play.
Following a drive by each team that resulted in a punt to start the second quarter, the Penn State offense moved down the field, including a 33-yard rush down the Purdue sideline by Royster. With the ball on the Purdue 16-yard line, Royster produced three rushes for a total of 11 yards to set up a Morelli 5-yard pass to Williams for the touchdown in the corner of the end zone. A Kelly PAT tied the game at 10-10 with 3:11 left before half. Following a Boilermaker drive that lost yards, the Nittany Lions capitalized on a 23-yard pass play to junior Deon Butler (Woodbridge, Va.) and a 13-yard gain by sophomore Andrew Quarless (Uniondale, N.Y.) to set up a 24-yard Kelly field goal to give the Nittany Lions the 13-10 lead heading into halftime. Penn State has outscored its opponents 101-21 in the second quarter this season.
The Boilermaker offense controlled the ball much of the third quarter, gaining 126 yards and holding the ball for more than nine minutes. Two Purdue field goals, including a 50-yard kick from Summers, were the only scores of the quarter and put the Boilermakers up 16-13.
A Royster 12-yard rush and a 9-yard pass to junior Jordan Norwood (State College, Pa.) began the fourth quarter for the Nittany Lions. A reverse by Williams from 12-yards around the end put Penn State ahead 19-16, but the extra point failed on a bobbled snap kept the Lion lead at just three points with 13:46 remaining in the game.
After an exchange of possessions, Royster was again the workhorse of the drive, recording 47 yards on eight rushes, including a 26-yard scramble up the middle that he broker loose for the score. Kelly's extra point put Penn State ahead 26-16 with 3:46 left in the game. On the following series, Purdue moved the ball 60 yards in just 1:53 but had to settle for a 37-yard Summers field goal to pull it within seven at 26-19 with 1:53 remaining.
Freshman wide receiver Brett Brackett (Lawrenceville, N.J.) recovered the on-side kick, but the Nittany Lions were forced to punt. The Boilermakers advanced to their 48 and had a shot at the end zone with three seconds remaining, but quarterback Curtis Painter's pass was swatted down by sophomore A.J. Wallace (Waldorf, Md.) to end the game.
Penn State heads to Temple on Saturday, Nov. 10 for a 12:00 p.m. game at Lincoln Financial Field that will be televised by ESPNU. A sellout crowd of more than 70,000 is expected.