STATE COLLEGE, Pennsylvania — Lost in Penn State's scoring spree against Purdue on Saturday was a defensive unit chipping in a bit more than usual.
Maligned for giving up 63 points at Ohio State and not being able to get off the field in the first half during a 24-10 loss at Minnesota, Penn State's defense limited Purdue to two scoring drives in its 45-21 win. A 100-yard kickoff return by Raheem Mostert accounted for the Boilermakers' other touchdown.
That alone isn't cause to celebrate, given Purdue (1-9) is last in the Big Ten in scoring offense and total offense, but the Boilermakers' only two plays of 20 yards or more (38 and 45) during the game came on those drives.
"They had two big plays and we beat ourselves on those plays and they took advantage of it," said Penn State cornerback Adrian Amos, who had eight tackles including two for a loss.
Overall, Penn State (6-4) forced two Purdue fumbles and intercepted freshman quarterback Danny Etling once while holding the Boilermakers to a single yard rushing in the first half and 41 overall.
Defensive end Deion Barnes and linebacker Nyeem Wartman forced Purdue's fumbles while defensive tackle Austin Johnson and linebacker Mike Hull had the recoveries. Cornerback Jordan Lucas recorded his third interception of the season.
The trio of turnovers was the most the defense has had since the opener against Syracuse.
"It's really important because when you do that you put our offense in position to score," defensive tackle DaQuan Jones said. "It gets the momentum back on our side. We stressed all week to get back there and stop a young quarterback, push the pocket and get sacks, and we were doing that today.
"It's a good feeling to know you helped the offense out a lot. We didn't do that enough this year."
Penn State was at a minus-7 in turnover margin, worst in the Big Ten, entering the game.
"We haven't created many turnovers this year and we've turned the ball over, which we did again today," Penn State coach Bill O'Brien said. "But our defense came to play today.
"They created some good turnovers and we were able to take advantage of them. It was good to see. I thought we got good pressure on the quarterback and we played the run well. I thought the defense played a good football game today."
Kicker Sam Ficken even got involved, stopping Purdue's Akeem Hunt after a 37-yard kickoff return not long after Mostert's 100-yard scamper. O'Brien said his kickoff return team - or Hit Squad, as he calls it - will have to get better.
"We all help each other out," Jones said. "We had sacks today because we had tight coverage. We had picks today because we had pressure on the quarterback. It all comes hand-in-hand."
Linebacker Glenn Carson said the big plays on the defensive side were a long time coming.
"Just the fact that we were productive and making big plays and creating big turnovers was really good to see after not creating many turnovers all year," he said. "So it's really comforting to see our defense do things like that."