Tom Mihalek, Associated Press
PHILADELPHIA — On the brink of a program-shifting upset, Temple instead tossed away the lead.
Blowouts or close calls, the Owls simply can't beat Penn State.
This game was closer than most over the last 70 years, but the Owls collapsed down the stretch. Mike Gerardi threw two interceptions in the fourth quarter, and the Nittany Lions rallied for a 14-10 victory on Saturday at Lincoln Financial Field.
Beating the Nittany Lions would have put the state and the sport on notice that Temple was a team worth following.
"One game doesn't define us one way or the other," Temple coach Steve Addazio said. "That doesn't define our season. We've got our whole conference season to play for."
After missing two field goal attempts, Penn State converted a late fourth down and Michael Zordich made the gamble pay off with a 1-yard run to stretch the Nittany Lions' winning streak against Temple to 29 straight games.
Penn State (2-1) had its field goal unit on the field for the tying attempt.
High above the field in the press box, Joe Paterno ordered a timeout and a change in plans — the Nittany Lions would go for it.
On fourth-and-1 on the 3, Brandon Beachum rushed for 2 clutch yards. Zordich followed with the easy score with 2:42 left and the Nittany Lions led for the first time in the game, giving the thousands of fans who made the trip a reason to roar in celebration.
"Coach (Paterno) makes big money to make those calls. Not me," said defensive coordinator Tom Bradley, who ran the sidelines without Paterno.
Aided by a defensive penalty, the Owls (2-1) drove to the 34 on their final possession. Gerardi was sacked on fourth down to end the drive and the upset bid.
"I really felt like we were going to go down the field and score," Addazio said.
The Owls led for most of the game and gave their intrastate rival one of the biggest scares in this series.
Temple has not defeated Penn State since a 14-0 victory on Oct. 18, 1941. The teams tied 7-7 in 1950.
Watching from the press box because of injuries again, Paterno improved to 28-0 vs. the Owls. But he almost saw a monumental upset a week after Penn State lost at home, 27-11, to Alabama.
The 84-year-old Paterno returned to the field for pregame warmups for the first time this season. He watched from the press box because he wasn't quick enough yet to get out of the way if action barreled his way. He's expected to return to the sideline next week vs. Eastern Michigan.
"I was afraid I'd run out of gas," Paterno said.
The Owls did in front of the third-largest crowd in school history.
Gerardi gave away the lead with the interceptions — Michael Mauti's pick set-up Zordich's score — and the Owls squandered a pair of fantastic chances to stretch the lead in the second half. Temple did not score off cornerback Kee-ayre Griffin's interception that put the ball on the 50, and came up empty after Rod Streater had an open path and blocked a punt that let the Owls start on Penn State's 39.
But in defeat, Temple still opened some eyes.
"They are on their way, and they are a program to be respected," Penn State running back Silas Redd said. "Up and coming, improved, whatever you want to call them. All I know, is they're going to be trouble for a lot of teams on their schedule."
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