Penn State Blows Out Southern Miss

Keeping his eyes on the ball paid off for Penn State's Bryant Johnson. The wide receiver made an acrobatic touchdown catch at the end of the first half to start run of three TDs in just 2:18 as the resurgent Nittany Lions beat Southern Mississippi 38-20 on Saturday. With four seconds left in the half, Zack Mills' pass to the end zone bounced high off the hands of the intended receiver, but Johnson caught the deflection just inside the end zone. ``The ball seemed to be in the air forever, and I just ran over and tried to keep my feet in,'' Johnson said. ``It was like a balancing act. It looked like it was far out of bounds, and I just tried to keep my feet in and catch it.'' The catch gave Penn State (3-4) a 24-7 halftime lead. ``One of our goals is to never give up scores at the beginning or end of the half, but I still felt good at halftime,'' Southern Miss coach Jeff Bower said. ``I thought all we needed was a three-and-out to start the second half and we would have been in good shape.'' They wouldn't get it. Mills followed that up with a 42-yard touchdown pass to Tony Johnson on the first possession of the second half. Just 47 seconds later, Penn State went up 38-7 when Larry Johnson _ Tony's older brother _ blocked a punt and returned it 40 yards for a TD 2:14 into the third quarter. It was Larry Johnson's second touchdown off a blocked punt return this year.

Penn State's Joe Paterno extended his record for career wins by a major-college coach with No. 325 _ two more than Bear Bryant. The Nittany Lions opened the season 0-4, the worst start in school history, before building their current winning streak by beating Northwestern and Ohio State. It was another record-breaking day for Mills, who threw two touchdown passes and ran for a third. Mills' 23-of-33 passing for 280 yards tied the school's freshman yardage passing record he set last week against Ohio State. He's 98-of-174 for 1,260 yards this season, breaking Penn State's freshman record of 1,037 set by Todd Blackledge in 1980. ``Zack's been able to make some big, clutch plays for us,'' Paterno said. ``He finds people, and he gets the ball to them.'' Bryant Johnson finished with 10 catches for 132 yards. Dawayne Woods carried 21 times for 126 yards for Southern Miss (4-3), scoring all three of his team's touchdowns. His 6-yard run with 14:47 left brought Southern Miss to 38-14. He scored again on a 3-yard run with 1:40 left, but the 2-point conversion failed, making it 38-20. Jeff Kelly completed 26 of 47 passes for 252 yards with one interception. Mills, who also holds on field goals, gave the Nittany Lions a 17-7 edge on an 8-yard run from a fake field goal. It was Penn State's first touchdown off a fake field goal since 1995.