STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) -- On his first pass as Penn State's
starting quarterback, Anthony Morelli showed coach Joe Paterno that
his offense was in good hands.
The throw sailed through raindrops and over two defenders into
the end zone. Morelli pumped his fist after wideout Deon Butler
came down with a 42-yard touchdown pass to give Penn State a 7-0
The strong-armed junior threw for two more scores and 206 yards
and No. 19 Penn State showed some different wrinkles on defense to
defeat Akron 34-16 at rain-soaked Beaver Stadium.
Morelli, replacing last year's do-it-all leader, Michael
Robinson, did make a few mistakes, including a third-quarter
fumble. With a trip looming next week to No. 2 Notre Dame, Paterno
offered cautious praise.
"I thought he started out well, did a good job, but overall he
was fine," said Paterno, in his 41st season as head coach.
Akron coach J.D. Brookhart was a little more gracious.
"That kid can throw from one half to the other, 20 yards
deep," Brookhart said. "You wont see a better arm this year."
Morelli also connected for TD passes with Jordan Norwood and
Derrick Williams for Penn State (1-0), delighting fans bundled up
in rain slickers after the remnants of Tropical Storm Ernesto
drenched Happy Valley.
Highly recruited coming out of high school, Morelli watched from
the bench his first two seasons at Penn State. Robinson was
instrumental in guiding Penn State's explosive offense last year.
There were questions about how the Nittany Lions would look this
year with a new leader and an offensive line featuring four new
The running game struggled, and Tony Hunt, who ran for 1,000
yards last season, gained just 36 on the ground Saturday, though
Hunt did have a late touchdown.
"I think they got their (butts) kicked in today," Paterno said
about the offensive line "Simple as that."
But given time to throw, Morelli clicked with his talented
"He just kept a level head today," said Butler, who had two
catches for 50 yards. "He never got nervous or mad when he came
back to the huddle."
Trailing 17-3 at halftime, the Zips (0-1) gained some momentum
after Penn State freshman A.J. Wallace fumbled the second-half
kickoff at midfield.
Luke Getsy kept the ensuing drive alive by hitting Kris Kasparek
for a 12-yard gain on fourth-and-7 from the Penn State 16. On the
next play, Dennis Kennedy bowled over Justin King to get into the
end zone for a 4-yard score -- but Matt Domonkos missed an extra
point -- and Akron cut the deficit to 17-9.
Wallace redeemed himself on the next kickoff with a 54-yard
sideline-to-sideline return to the Akron 40. Morelli found the
sure-handed Norwood for a couple completions before connecting with
Williams down the left sideline for 20 yards and a 24-9 lead.
Getsy finished 22-of-42 for 160 yards with one touchdown and two
interceptions, while Kennedy ran for 59 yards on 25 carries.
"We made too many mistakes to have a chance to win that
football game," Brookhart said.
Penn State often employed three linemen and four linebackers on
defense instead of the 4-3 scheme that worked well for Penn State
Three linemen graduated off last year's starting line while Penn
State is stocked at linebacker, including All-American Paul
Posluszny, so the 3-4 look plays to the Nittany Lions' strength.
"We don't show that often," defensive coordinator Tom Bradley
said. "We wanted to set the tempo in the game."
Two third-quarter series typified Akron's frustrations. One
drive stalled after Getsy, under pressure on third down in the
backfield, found David Harvey for a 5-yard pass before he was
immediately hit by Anthony Scirrotto.
Akron recovered a Morelli fumble at the Penn State 40 but the
Zips again couldn't capitalize after linebacker Sean Lee stuffed
Kennedy in the backfield. Josh Gaines and Jay Alford then sacked
Getsy on third-and-14 as cheering fans jumped up and down, rocking
creaky Beaver Stadium.
"Early we had to adjust to what they were doing, as the game
went on I thought we got a little better," Getsy said about Penn
State's 3-4 look.
Posluszny had seven tackles and looked good playing his first
game since partially tearing two ligaments in his right knee in the
Orange Bowl. Fellow linebackers Tim Shaw and Dan Connor each had
Williams also impressed in his first outing since breaking his
left arm last October against Michigan, catching three balls for 49