SYRACUSE, N.Y. — Don McPherson wanted to make a statement early and let Penn State know this was not the same Syracuse team that had lost its 16 previous meetings with the Nittany Lions.
"When I saw the corner fall, I knew it was bombs away," said McPherson, who on the first play from scrimmage connected with Rob Moore on an 80-yard scoring pass play as No. 13 Syracuse trounced 10th-ranked Penn State, 48-21, Saturday at the Carrier Dome.
"Once we jumped ahead, things just snowballed," said McPherson, who figured in five of Syracuse's six touchdowns, passing for three and running for two while finishing with 375 yards in total offense.
"Donnie was reading the defense. He just took what they gave him," said Moore, one of two receivers McPherson looked for on the opening play. "When that defender fell down, I knew just to keep running long."
"We didn't expect them to come so quick and jump out on top of us like they did," Penn State receiver Ray Roundtree said.
Penn State Coach Joe Paterno praised Syracuse.
"They're an awfully fine football team," Paterno said. "I think Syracuse is a better football team than Alabama (which defeated Penn State earlier this season). Syracuse can do everything as long as they keep Don McPherson healthy."
Syracuse Coach Dick MacPherson wasn't ready to claim the national championship after Syracuse's most decisive victory over the Nittany Lions, but he was happy.
"I think it's a great win," he said. "Syracuse has been waiting a long time for this. We're not ready to say we've turned it around. But I don't think there will be any more questions about whether we are a legitimate football team this year."
It was the first Syracuse victory over Penn State since 1970 and its first at home over the Nittany Lions since 1965.
The Orangemen improved to 6-0, the best start for a Syracuse team since the 1959 national champions went 10-0.
Syracuse stunned Penn State and a sellout crowd on the opening play of the game, touted by the Syracuse coaching staff as one of the biggest in school history. Moore sprinted free behind the Penn State secondary to catch McPherson's pass and ran untouched into the end zone.
Tim Vesling kicked field goals of 37 and 35 yards as the Orangemen built a 13-0 first-quarter lead.
McPherson threw scoring passes of 29 and 27 yards to Tommy Kane and ran 6 and 20 yards for touchdowns as Syracuse rolled unchecked to a 41-0 margin in the third period.
Penn State got its first points on Gary Brown's 80-yard run in the third quarter. In the fourth period, defensive tackle Rich Shonewolf blocked a punt for a touchdown and Roundtree scored on a 59-yard play after taking a pass from Tom Bill for the other Penn State points.