UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Penn State Nittany Lions probably had a few temptations about a quarter of the way through the mess they created out of a good USC team yesterday.
They could have been tempted to look ahead to their important date with Michigan on Oct.15 in Ann Arbor.
They could have been tempted to dream about Pasadena and the Rose Bowl.
They could have been tempted to climb into the stands and sun themselves in the student section.
After all, they'd already made sure the No. 14 Trojans would be no bother.
Hammering USC early and often with relentless precision, No. 8 Penn State (2-0) scored touchdowns the first three times it had the ball and beat the Trojans (1-1) with surprising ease, 38-14.
"We couldn't have been much better. That's about as well as you could expect a team to play this early in the season," Penn State Coach Joe Paterno said.
It was Penn State's second straight romp. The Nittany Lions beat Minnesota 56-3 last week, with six players accounting for eight touchdowns.
"The more balanced we can be offensively, the more we spread the ball around, the better our whole offense is," receiver Freddie Scott said. "We know what it takes to execute plays. We don't try to make the big play every time."
The Trojans, who lost for a second straight year in Beaver Stadium, seldom managed to stop Penn State's first-team offense. When USC was looking for Bobby Engram or Ki-Jana Carter - Penn State's top receiver and rusher - Collins found Scott, who had six catches for 133 yards, including a 44-yard touchdown.
"I think there's a tendency to overlook Freddie because of Bobby. Everybody's scared to death of Bobby, and they give Freddie a little more room," Paterno said.
This was supposed to be a game that tested Penn State's young defense and the resolve of Paterno's talented offense. Instead, all it did was test State's threshold for boredom. Eighteen minutes into the game, it was 28-0. At the half, it was 35-0, and on the verge of losing interest, they were asking, "Who's next?"
USC quarterback Rob Johnson, a preseason Heisman Trophy contender who picked apart the Nittany Lions last season, and the Trojans were jolted by linebackers Willie Smith and Brian Gelzheiser and their exuberant teammates on defense.
Carter, who had 210 yards last week against Minnesota and gained 119 against USC, opened the way with a 32-yard scoring run. Seven seconds later, Scott grabbed a 44-yard TD pass from Collins. Touchdown runs by fullbacks Jon Witman and Brian Milne quickly followed, and Engram made it 35-0 with a 19-yard TD reception.
Collins finished 18 for 33 for 248 yards after becoming a bit careless in the second half, when he was twice intercepted.
USC had only 70 yards at halftime to Penn State's 363. After three quarters, Penn State's edge was 493-98. The fourth quarter narrowed the margin to 534-281.
Johnson completed 18 of 30 passes for 221 yards after going 13 of 17, with nine completions in a row, in the fourth quarter.
Paterno had pregame questions about the Lions' defense. But defensive end Jeff Perry set the tone by swatting away Johnson's pass on USC's first play.
Two plays later, Gelzheiser, who sat out last week's game with a sprained knee, recovered a fumble by Johnson at the USC 44, setting up a 44-yard, Collins-to-Scott TD pass that made it 14-0.