Collins throws off doubts, Rutgers in 31-7 Penn St. win

UNIVERSITY PARK, PA. — UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Like clockwork, Rutgers showed up here last night to inspire another Penn State quarterback.

A year after John Sacca shredded Rutgers' secondary, Kerry Collins carved up the Scarlet Knights' defense for a 31-7 Penn State win before 92,000 at Beaver Stadium.


Not even a relentless, game-long rain could keep Collins from a four-touchdown pass performance in his first start since reclaiming the job this week.

He not only revived Penn State's lethargic passing game, he quickly terminated a budding quarterback controversy.


By the time the demoted Sacca got into the game with 8:31 left, at least half of the Beaver Stadium crowd had departed.

A year ago, Sacca established himself as the starter by throwing for 303 yards and three touchdowns in a 38-24 victory over Rutgers. After consecutive poor outings, Sacca was benched last week and nearly quit the team.

Last night, Collins completed 18 of 25 for 222 yards, a career-high four touchdowns and one interception. He hit tight end Kyle Brady for two scores, covering distances of 15 and 1 yard. He also tossed a 4-yarder to Mike Archie and a 20-yarder to split end Bobby Engram.

As if that wasn't enough, Collins also set up a third-quarter touchdown with a nifty 28-yard run to the left after play-faking to the right side. Collins, 6 feet 5 and 235 pounds, showed his strength in the fourth quarter when he slammed into Jay Bellamy on another keeper and momentarily knocked out the Rutgers safety.

It was just like old times for ninth-ranked Penn State, which improved to 4-0. The Nittany Lions, now representing the Big Ten, revisited their non-conference past and picked on one of their favorite patsies.

This was the Lions' fifth straight win over Rutgers, and the 20th in the past 21 games of the series.

Next week, Penn State visits winless Maryland before returning to the Big Ten.

Rutgers' annual fit of frustration in the lopsided series continued in the first half. The Scarlet Knights got inside the Penn State 10-yard line twice early in the game and both times came away empty.


The first scoring threat ended when Penn State safety Derek Bochna intercepted quarterback Ray Lucas in the end zone.

Rutgers had moved from its own 22 to the Penn State 6-yard line with a three-wideout formation that spread the Lions' defense. But Lucas underthrew a third-down pass for Chris Brantley and Bochna picked it off in the end zone.

In the second quarter, Rutgers was unable to take advantage of a 75-yard kickoff return by freshman Terrell Willis. The Knights reached the 5-yard line on that series, where an illegal procedure penalty nullified a Lucas touchdown pass to Brantley.

After another motion penalty and an incompletion, place-kicker John Benestad was wide left on a 33-yard field-goal attempt.

Penn State's offense, meanwhile, punched out a pair of 80-yard touchdown drives and nearly had a third.

The Lions went 80 yards after Bochna's interception -- Penn State's ninth of the season -- to take a 7-0 lead. Tailback Ki-Jana Carter had runs of 17 and 11 yards, and Collins threw 18 yards to Engram as the Lions moved methodically down the field.


They didn't face a third-down call until they reached the Rutgers' 4. There, Collins tossed a screen to the left side, and tailback Mike Archie ran untouched to the end zone.

On Penn State's next offensive play, Collins hit wide receiver Chip LaBarca on a fly pattern for 46 yards to the Rutgers' 12.

After Collins threw a third-down pass out of bounds, Craig Fayak drilled a 28-yard field goal to make it 10-0. The field goal was the 40th of Fayak's career, tying him with school record-holder Massimo Manca.

The score went to 17-0 when Collins hit tight end Kyle Brady with a play-action pass and 15-yard touchdown halfway through the second quarter.