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Halftime update: Northwestern-Penn State

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- Northwestern is spoiling Joe Paterno's party so far, leading Penn State 21-7 at halftime.

Some quick thoughts:

Player of the half: Northwestern quarterback Dan Persa. The junior has been outstanding in his return to his home state, completing 9 of 13 passes for 103 yards and a touchdown. He has added 89 rush yards and two touchdowns on 14 carries, showing fearlessness a week after suffering a concussion.

Stat of the half: Penn State entered the game leading the nation in fewest penalties (3.25 per game), while Northwestern came in tied for 98th nationally (7.5 per game), worst in the Big Ten. The Lions have drawn five penalties for 54 yards, while Northwestern's only penalty came with three seconds left in the half and was declined.

What Northwestern needs to do: The Wildcats played a near flawless 29 minutes with no penalties or turnovers, so they just need to keep the pedal down, which hasn't been easy for Pat Fitzgerald's team. Northwestern must avoid the major mistake and continue to put pressure on Penn State's quarterbacks, which you didn't see on that final drive.

What Penn State needs to do: Build off its 9-play, 91-yard scoring drive just before halftime. Northwestern will blow big leads -- the Wildcats lost a 17-0 lead on Michigan State two weeks ago -- so the Lions need to use the crowd's energy and start finishing drives better. They also need to step things up on defense against Persa, who has had his way so far.