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Nittany Lions have gone on the offensive

Coach Joe Paterno still wears those coke-bottle eyeglasses, the Nittany Lions still wear the plainest uniforms in football and they still wear their home turf long.

But the times they are a-changin' at Penn State.

Penn State isn't a defensive team this year. The Lions have turned offensive.

"Penn State is a lot better offensively than they're usually given credit for," said Rutgers coach Doug Graber, whose team was beaten 38-24 last week by the Lions. "They've always been known for great defense, but the thing that really impressed me is their offense.

"They've got good receivers and great runners, six of them."


7 Penn State (5-0) has averaged better than 42 points in its first five games. The Lions averaged 36 per game last year, but an 81-point overkill against Cincinnati inflated that number. Eliminate that game and Penn State averaged 27.

"They have as many weapons now as any team you'll see in college football," said Miami coach Dennis Erickson, who will take his second-ranked Hurricanes into State College, Pa., on Saturday.

The Lions' most volatile weapon is receiver O.J. McDuffie, perhaps the fastest player on the team. McDuffie has gained 817 yards on runs, catches and returns and scored five touchdowns and two two-point conversions.

"Obviously, O.J. is a great player; we've done a lot to get him the ball," Paterno said. "He can make a big play happen whenever he touches the ball."

McDuffie is the heart of Penn State's passing attack; his 25 catches lead the team. Tight end Troy Drayton is second with nine.

After McDuffie, tailback Richie Anderson is Penn State's next option. Anderson averages 81 yards per game and has rushed for 405 yards and eight touchdowns. He became the Lions' top back late last season, gaining 100-plus yards in three of the final five games. Fullbacks J.T. Morris and Brian O'Neal and tailbacks Ki-Jana Carter and Stephen Pitts all average better than 5 yards per carry.

The Lions' question mark has been quarterback. Preseason starter Kerry Collins went down with an injury before the season began, leaving John Sacca to start. Sacca, a sophomore, had never thrown a pass before this season. He started the opener, but true freshman Wally Richardson started the second game. Sacca returned to the lineup the next week and has thrown for 660 yards, seven touchdowns and no interceptions.

Penn State's defense hasn't been a weak link, but it has allowed some surprising point totals. The Lions beat Cincinnati 24-20 one year after beating the Bearcats 81-0. They also allowed Rutgers to score 24 points _ the Scarlet Knights' highest point total in the past eight meetings between the schools.

The key defenders are cornerbacks Shelly Hammonds and Mark Graham, who must try to stop UM's fleet receivers. Penn State's starting secondary has eight interceptions in five games.

The series

Penn State leads 6-4.

1961: Miami 25, Penn State 8

1967: Penn State 17, Miami 8

1968: Penn State 22, Miami 7

1976: Penn State 21, Miami 7

1977: Penn State 49, Miami 7

1979: Miami 26, Penn State 10

1980: Penn State 27, Miami 12

1981: Miami 17, Penn State 14

1986-x: Penn State 14, Miami 10

1991: Miami 26, Penn State 20

x - Fiesta Bowl.