STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) -- Navorro Bowman almost tripped himself up on his 91-yard run to the end zone.
The Penn State linebacker picked up a fumble at his own 9, then started chugging full speed down the sideline, nearly slipping up at the Eastern Illinois 25 before righting himself and crossing the goal line for a touchdown.
Nearly everything else went the Nittany Lions' way, too, in a 52-3 rout Saturday of lower-division Eastern Illinois.
Daryll Clark's three touchdown passes paced the offense, while tackle Jared Odrick (career high-tying two sacks) and Bowman led the menacing defense -- at least when Bowman wasn't trying to catch his breath.
Coach Joe Paterno joked that his athletic linebacker wasn't in shape.
"Joe's always got jokes," a smiling Bowman said afterward. "Man, I don't make excuses, but I was a little fatigued, just running that far kind of got me."
Bowman's TD gave Penn State (5-1) a 38-0 lead to cap off a dominating first half. Penn State scored 28 points the final 7:27 of the second quarter to finish off FCS school Eastern Illinois (4-2).
Panthers coach Bob Spoo said earlier in the week that there was "ray of hope" that his overmatched team could upset a Big Ten powerhouse.
The closest Eastern Illinois came was when the sun came out late in the fourth quarter. Otherwise, the Panthers managed just a 43-yard field goal by Austin Signor.
Penn State bullied its opponent along the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. The Nittany Lions had season-high 553 yards, including 285 on the ground, and sacked quarterback Jake Christensen five times.
"They just outmuscled us.They just controlled everything," Spoo said. "That was the basis of it really, we couldn't block them, couldn't tackle them."
Clark opened the scoring with a TD plunge from a yard out, then followed with TD passes on three straight drives in the second quarter. He connected with Chaz Powell for 51 yards down the right seam to give Penn State a 24-0 lead with 4:33 left in the half.
Paterno offered cautious praise.
"We're not anywhere near as good as where we have to be, but we think we are a better football team than three or four weeks ago," he said. "We played with a little more poise."
Later, Eastern Illinois pieced together a nice drive deep into Penn State territory, but Ollie Ogbu sacked Christensen and forced a fumble that bounced into Bowman's hands.
He was off to the races -- sort of.
"I'm sure anyone would be winded," said fellow linebacker Nathan Stupar, who watched the play from the sideline.
Then, Stupar recounted talking with Bowman when he returned to the bench.
"He got back and said, 'Stoops, I'm tired," said Stupar, talking like he was out of breath.
Christensen knew his team was in for a tough challenge coming into Happy Valley.
" We knew we would've had to be perfect to be in the game. It didn't work out for us," the quarterback said. "It's out of the way and it's just another game on the schedule for us."
Leading 38-0 at the half, the most compelling drama of the second half was when would Paterno send in touted freshman backup quarterback Kevin Newsome.
He ended up scoring, too, on a 9-yard run up the middle in the fourth quarter to make it 52-3. It was the highest point total for Penn State since a 55-13 blowout of Syracuse in September 2008.
The outcome wasn't that unexpected, especially since Eastern Illinois plays in the Football Championship Subdivision.
After a win, the biggest goal for the banged-up Nittany Lions was to avoid any more injuries with Big Ten play resuming next week with a visit from Minnesota. Penn State played without star linebacker Sean Lee (left knee) for a third straight week, and right tackle Nerraw McCormack sat out with a right ankle injury.
It didn't really matter -- Penn State still had too much talent to overwhelm the Panthers.
"One of the biggest tests of a game like this is what kind of attitude your team shows up with," said quarterbacks coach Jay Paterno, the head coach's son. "We had to see if the kids could come out and self-motivate themselves, and they did."
Christensen, a transfer from Iowa who played at Beaver Stadium in 2007, finished 13 of 25 for 137 yards and one interception. Clark was 13 of 19 for 234 yards with one interception to go with his three scores.
(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)