Penn State Football

Walt Moody: Nittany Lions taking care of business

None of Penn State’s current football players were alive when Bachman-Turner Overdrive hit it big with a single in 1973, but they certainly were singing the tune on Saturday afternoon.

“Taking Care of Business.”

That’s certainly what the unbeaten Nittany Lions did in a 48-7 romp against the University of Massachusetts before 99,155 at Beaver Stadium.

“We try to take care of business every single week,” said linebacker Mike Hull, who spearheaded a defense that held the winless Minutemen to three yards rushing. “If we do our jobs everything will take care of itself.”

Let’s face it. If these Minutemen were back on Bunker Hill, we might be speaking with a British accent and be playing a different kind of football. They’re now 2-29 in their last 31 games.

But Penn State did what the Redcoats couldn’t do — take an overwhelming force and dominate an outmanned foe.

“You have to go out there and make a statement sometimes,” said receiver Geno Lewis, who led the Nittany Lions with five catches for 82 yards. “You just want to be able to be balanced running and passing, just be disciplined in everything you do.”

After a slow start, Penn State found the end zone four times in the second quarter, with two rushing scores each from Bill Belton and Zach Zwinak.

The rushing game appeared for the first time this season. The Nittany Lions entered the contest 13th in the Big Ten, averaging 75.7 yards per game. They rang up 228 yards against UMass with running Akeel Lynch (81 yards, TD), Belton (76, 2 TDs), Zwinak (28, 2TDs) and Cole Chiappialle (35) having solid afternoons.

Lynch cracked off a 46-yarder in the first quarter, which doubled Penn State’s longest running play on the season.

The afternoon — no matter that it came against a foe that was giving up more than 200 yards on the ground entering the game — was welcome for a team that had rushed for 175 yards a game last season.

“It proves that we can do it,” said Lynch. “... Performing on gameday adds a lot more confidence to it. We always know that we can do it. We just had to show up and do it.”

The starting offensive line, which was awful at Rutgers, got to take most of the second half off after the lead hit 41-0.

“It’s great to be able to control the line of scrimmage and do what the coach calls and execute,” tight end Jesse James said.

Penn State Coach James Franklin said the running game was bound to break out, but was happy to see it sooner rather than later.

“You keep working at things, keep a positive attitude and keep persevering and good things will happen,” Franklin said. “It's no different than with the running game. I knew it was going to happen at some point, but we’ve still got a long ways to go to get better in all three phases, but it was nice to have some success running the ball this week.”

The Nittany Lion defense continued to shine. UMass didn’t score against the first team unit, which has allowed only one touchdown in the last three games.

State College native and former Nittany Lion Alex Kenney ran for 18 yards on the game’s first play, but for the rest of the contest the Minutemen lost 15 yards on the ground.

Hull, who led the team with 5 1/2 tackles and forced a fumble, still wasn’t satisfied.

“It’s definitely a positive when you can hold a team to three yards rushing, but at the same we know that we left some plays on the field today,” he said. “We have to keep working to get better.”

Hull said he and his teammates — who are allowing 11 points per game — get angry when an opponent gets into the end zone.

“That’s the mentality you’ve got to have,” the senior middle linebacker said.

The contest also provided Franklin the opportunity to empty his bench. Not only did he give his starters a welcome break, Franklin got to see how his reserves performed.

“We went out there and had a pretty good overall game with everybody,” said Lewis. “We were happy with results.”

The Nittany Lions (4-0) next face struggling Northwestern (1-2) and Michigan (2-2). A couple of wins could keep the Penn State momentum rolling heading into an East Division showdown with Ohio State on Oct. 25 at Beaver Stadium.

“The main thing is we’re improving and getting confidence each game,” Lewis said. “You want to get keep getting better as the season goes on and on. I think this was just another step towards that. We’re really happy with the way things are going right now. We’re still hungry and we’re going to still go out there and keep this ball rolling.”

It’s rolling in a conference that has taken a beating nationally over the first three weeks.

“We really don’t care,” Lewis said of the criticism of the Big Ten. “Our main thing is to win games. If you win games, what can people really say? As long we keep winning, can’t nobody say anything about us.”

That’s why winning easy was important Saturday, no matter the quality of opponent.

Cue the music and the Randy Bachman guitar solo.

“Whenever you have an opponent like that you’ve got to take care of business,” Hull said. “You have to win in that type of fashion.”