STATE COLLEGE, PA., SEPT. 22 -- First-half performances from quarterback Tony Sacca and tailback Leroy Thompson today powered Penn State to its first win of the season, a 28-0 decision over Rutgers that eased some pressure the unranked Nittany Lions may have been feeling after losses to Texas and Southern Cal.
Sacca completed nine of 16 passes for 170 yards in the first half to help set up four short touchdown runs by Thompson as the Nittany Lions constructed a 28-0 halftime lead that stood up.
Thompson sat out the second half after injuring his hand; X-rays were negative. Backup tailback Gary Brown separated his shoulder slightly on his first carry. Both are questionable for Penn State's next game, against Temple on Oct. 6 at Beaver Stadium.
Penn State Coach Joe Paterno used junior Gerry Collins at tailback in the second half, but saved Richie Anderson, a sophomore from Sandy Spring, Md., whom he is hoping to redshirt this season.
Sacca, a junior who has steadily improved, said the first half was a confidence-builder. "The offensive line was moving things out so we were able to run and pass," said Sacca, who was 11 for 23 for 193 yards overall. "That gave us a lot of variety. The offense executed well. We were beating them with the run and with the pass. I think we had them confused."
Thompson ran for 54 yards on 16 carries in the first half. He capped a 10-play, 65-yard drive with a one-yard scoring run over the right side on fourth and goal to give Penn State (1-2) a 7-0 lead with 3:25 left in the first period. He added a six-yard touchdown run with 12:09 left in the first half, set up by Tisen Thomas's 43-yard punt return to the Rutgers 26.
Thompson struck again with 2:58 left in the half, scoring from two yards. Sacca fueled the 60-yard drive with a 37-yard completion to tight end Al Golden and fullback Brian O'Neal added an 18-yard run to the Rutgers 5.
With less than two minutes left in the half, the Nittany Lions moved 72 yards in 1:21 to score their final touchdown, another two-yard run by Thompson. In the drive, Sacca hit wideout Terry Smith for 21 yards and Thompson for 36 to the Rutgers 2.
Thompson's four-touchdown day was the first for a Penn State player since Mike Guman had four against Army in 1976. The Penn State record is six by Harry Robb against Gettysburg in 1917.
"We lost our concentration, although we played a very fine first half," Paterno said. "The kicking game has me concerned. We had a field goal blocked and we darn near had another punt blocked. I really have some concerns now because we've worked so hard on it. We're getting better but we sure have a long way to go."
Penn State's defense, which allowed 148 total yards, stopped Rutgers' only real scoring threat with a goal-line stand in the third quarter. After defensive back Jay Bellamy intercepted Sacca and returned the ball 27 yards to the Penn State 2, Rutgers wound up at the 5, a fourth-down pass falling incomplete in the end zone.
Rutgers quarterback Tom Tarver completed 14 of 26 passes for 107 yards, suffering several dropped passes by receivers.
"I don't know about convincingly, but it was important to win," said Paterno. "The goal-line stand I thought was big. I had hoped we'd be 2-1 at worst, I felt we could beat Texas at home. Obviously two losses early hurts you. But if we practice well and if we can build from this, we'll be a good football team."