STATE COLLEGE, PA. — Running back Tony Hunt's contributions to Penn State's offense sometimes have been overlooked this season amid all the attention over the team's fast freshmen receivers.
On Saturday, in Penn State's 33-15 victory over Purdue, he stole the show late, and he didn't even score a touchdown.
Hunt ran for 129 of Penn State's 303 rushing yards, slipping past and bullying his way over numerous tacklers on key fourth-quarter runs as the 11th-ranked Nittany Lions (8-1 overall, 4-1 Big Ten) went to the ground game to thwart a late comeback attempt by the Boilermakers (2-6, 0-5).
"I don't think I ever really got too much fanfare, so I'm used to it," Hunt said. "It's not going to stop me from playing hard."
Kevin Kelly booted four field goals, Rodney Kinlaw had a dazzling 58-yard kickoff return to set up a score, and quarterback Michael Robinson added 96 yards and one touchdown on the ground for Penn State, which is trying to win its first Big Ten title since 1994.
Hunt had 52 yards in the fourth quarter, and the gains came against a Purdue defense that was giving up just 122 rushing yards game coming into Saturday. Hunt's clutch performance wasn't overlooked by coach Joe Paterno.
"We let them hang around and hang around and hang around," Paterno said. "I thought we were going to blow this game, and Hunt picked it up."
Red-shirt freshman quarterback Curtis Painter had a 24-yard touchdown run for Purdue before being replaced by senior Brandon Kirsch to start the second half. Kirsch added a four-yard TD run in the fourth quarter.
The Boilermakers, who started the season in the Top 25, lost their sixth straight, and Joe Tiller is assured of his first losing record in his nine seasons as Purdue coach.
"This is a hurdle you have to clear," Tiller said. "I don't think too much about it, I think about winning a football game."