By DAN LEWERENZ
Associated Press Writer
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) — Before the season, defensive tackle Michael Haynes felt he was holding back Penn State’s vaunted defensive line.
That’s not the case. Haynes had three sacks and forced a fumble that set up a touchdown as No. 19 Penn State beat Virginia 35-14 Saturday.
“I felt last year that I was the weak link in the defensive line. I was hoping I could step it up,” Haynes said. “I think under the circumstances, this was a pretty good game.”
Haynes forced Virginia quarterback Matt Schaub to fumble midway through the fourth quarter — Haynes’ sixth forced fumble of the season — and Shawn Mayer recovered for Penn State (7-3). Six plays later, Larry Johnson ran 6 yards into the end zone for a 35-7 lead.
“He’s a great player — not too many players like him in the country,” Virginia running back Wali Lundy said. “He’s just an athlete. He gets the job done.”
Schaub completed 30 of 38 passes for 260 yards and a touchdown for Virginia (6-4), but the Cavaliers managed just 30 yards rushing.
Haynes was a big reason for that, with seven tackles. His three sacks set the Cavaliers back 23 yards.
“We couldn’t attempt to play a power game against them,” Virginia coach Al Groh said. “They have a lot of power on their defensive line.”
Penn State’s offense succeeded at running and passing. Johnson finished with 188 yards and one touchdown on 31 carries. Zack Mills completed 19 of 30 passes for 227 yards and two touchdowns, his first 200-yard passing game since throwing for 264 yards in a 27-24 overtime loss at Michigan on Oct. 12.
“I think he’s a big-time football player,” Penn State coach Joe Paterno said of Mills. “He’s a leader, he’s very accurate, has a lot of poise.”
The win helped Penn State make up for last year’s season-ending 20-14 loss at Virginia, which prevented the Nittany Lions from becoming bowl eligible.
“That was a huge motivating factor,” cornerback Bryan Scott said. “We had guys looking at it as they knocked us out of bowl contention. They just really spoiled our season.”
It was the 334th career win for Penn State coach Joe Paterno, the winningest coach in major college history.
Lundy had a 4-yard touchdown run for Virginia midway through the fourth quarter to make it 35-14, but the Cavaliers wouldn’t score again.
On the second play of the fourth quarter, the Nittany Lions faked a field goal and third-string quarterback Chris Ganter swept around the left side for a 30-yard touchdown run. Mills ran in the 2-point conversion for a 28-7 lead.
Robbie Gould had two field goals for the Nittany Lions, including a 50-yarder in the third quarter to make it 20-7.
Billy McMullen made a spectacular play for the Cavaliers on the first play of the second half, catching a pass over the middle, then stopping — causing three Penn State defenders to collide — and spinning toward the left sideline for a 41-yard gain.
But the Cavaliers lost the ball two plays later when Alvin Pearman fumbled on the Penn State 39, and Andy Ryland recovered for the Nittany Lions.
Mills was 3-for-3 passing on the next possession, including a 10-yard shovel pass to Paul Jefferson for a touchdown and a 17-7 lead.
Casey Williams caught a 13-yard touchdown pass from Mills to tie the game at 7 late in the first quarter, and Gould’s 33-yard field goal in the final seconds of the second quarter gave the Nittany Lions a 10-7 halftime lead.
Mills fumbled and Chris Canty recovered at the Penn State 46 to set up Virginia’s first score. Heath Miller made two third-down catches, including a 1-yard touchdown catch that gave the Cavaliers a 7-0 lead.
By DAN LEWERENZ