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September 2, 2006

Penn State cruises in first start for Morelli

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STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -With a new quarterback running the offense, Penn State barely missed a beat.

Anthony Morelli threw for 206 yards and three touchdowns in his first start and No. 19 Penn State threw in some new wrinkles on defense to defeat Akron, 34-16 on Saturday at rain-soaked Beaver Stadium.

Replacing last year's do-it-all leader Michael Robinson, Morelli impressed early. On his first pass of the season, the strong-armed junior found Deon Butler for a 42-yard touchdown to give Penn State a 7-0 lead.

Morelli also had TD passes to 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.

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.

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 ensuing 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. Tony Hunt added a score and 36 yards on 14 carries for Penn State.

Joe Paterno started his 41st season as head coach by going with a different look on defense, often employing three-linemen and four linebackers instead of the 4-3 scheme that worked well for Penn State last season.

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.

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.

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 two sacks.

Williams also impressed in his first outing since breaking his left arm last October against Michigan, catching three balls for 49 yards.

For more coverage of the Penn State, check out BlueWhiteIllustrated.com.

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