UNIVERSITY PARK - Scoreboards don't have a column for style points, which is great for Penn State.
"I could really care less about style points," defensive tackle Devon Still said. "As long as my team comes out with a win, that's all that matters to me."
An impressive win or an ugly win, that doesn't matter either to the Nittany Lions.
"I don't care if we win by one point or 100 points," quarterback Matt McGloin said. "At the end of the day, as long as we won the game, I really don't care what we look like."
That continues to be the pressing issue about this Penn State season through seven games.
The record looks good at 6-1 and 3-0 in the Big Ten, so the players keep saying everything is fine. It's clear to anyone watching the games, however, that everything most definitely is not fine.
That was evident again Saturday as the Nittany Lions struggled against another weak opponent, yet found a way to hang on once again, 23-18, over Purdue before 100,820 fans on homecoming at Beaver Stadium.
Joe Paterno had a comical response when asked what's been the difference in his team winning close games this season.
"The score," JoePa said.
There appears to be a big disconnect in the way the players and coaches see this season so far and the way their fan base views things. Close wins over Temple, Indiana and now Purdue haven't given many fans faith that this team can beat good competition, so the PSU personnel keeps having to answer questions about things like a perceived lack of respect and whether they feel fortunate to be 6-1.
"Any time you win a game I feel fortunate," Paterno said.
"I don't feel fortunate," Still said. "I think we earned it. We worked hard during the offseason, we work hard every single week."
Still, the team's best defensive player, has been getting his share of respect. So has running back Silas Redd, the club's top offensive performer who topped 100 yards for the third straight game.
But when it comes to respect for the entire team, even the players understand they're not getting much of that just yet.
"Probably not," Redd said, "but we don't really care what anybody else says. We're 6-1. We know what type of team we are. As long as we keep winning, I don't care what they say about us."
Redd also had this to say for those fans who continue to doubt if the Lions can beat good teams:
"Keep watching. There's not much I can say other than that."
Redd carried 28 times for 131 yards and one touchdown to help the Lions fight off Purdue (3-3, 1-1). The Boilermakers hurt themselves with numerous mistakes, including a very costly missed PAT, and the Lions were able to win despite starting off with what several players admitted was a lackluster effort.
"You could just tell in the locker room before the game that it wasn't as hyped as it would usually be like," Still said. "People were just quiet, staying to themselves. Me and [offensive lineman] Johnnie Troutman tried to come together and just get the locker room to liven up so we don't come out there sluggish."
"We just kind of started off slow," cornerback Stephon Morris said. "The energy wasn't there in the warmups, and we were trying to do all we can just to not have the same homecoming we did last year [a 33-13 loss to Illinois]."
Purdue got a 1-yard touchdown run from Akeem Shavers with 8:08 to play to pull within 20-18. The Boilermakers went for the tie with a two-point conversion, but quarterback Caleb TerBush was stopped at the 2 by linebacker Khairi Fortt.
Chaz Powell returned the ensuing kickoff 93 yards to the Purdue 3, but he was flagged 15 yards for unsportsmanlike conduct for flipping the ball into the air. Penn State's offense, which once again struggled in the red zone with two TDs in five trips, stalled at the 12, and Anthony Fera's 29-yard field goal made it 23-18 with 6:24 to play.
The Lions' defense did not play up to its usual standards as the Boilermakers had 344 yards of offense and rushed for 169 (PSU was giving up an average of 93). When it mattered most, however, the defense came up with two big stops to protect the five-point lead in the final six minutes.
"I thought we'd rise to the occasion," defensive coordinator Tom Bradley said. "We didn't play well today on defense, we didn't have our usual step. I told the guys that. We really didn't get into it until the fourth quarter."
Purdue had a chance to claim the lead when it took possession at its 35 with 6:18 to play. Penn State's defense buckled down and held the Boilermakers to a three-and-out, giving up a 2-yard run on first down and forcing TerBush into two incompletions.
The Lions went three-and-out on their next series, and Fera booted a 69-yard punt that the special teams unit played perfectly as Nick Sukay batted it out of the end zone so PSU could down it at the 2.
Purdue was called for holding and started at its 1 with 2:36 to go, and the Lions' defense again slammed the door. The Boilermakers gained only 2 yards in three plays, then TerBush had a pass tipped and intercepted by linebacker Nate Stupar at the 12.
"We started the game a little bit and flat and sat on our hands too long," Bradley said of the defense.
Despite the struggles Saturday, the defense is the primary reason Penn State is 6-1. And at this point, 6-1 is the only thing the Lions care about.
"We don't really care if we get a lot of attention or not," cornerback D'Anton Lynn said. "We're just going to keep going out there playing, and we're perfectly fine being under the radar."