UNIVERSITY PARK - It's way too early to tell whether Derek Moye will become one of the great receivers in Penn State history.
But it's not too early to say he has the potential to be special.
The Nittany Lions went into the season looking for a go-to receiver to fill the massive graduation void left by Deon Butler, Derrick Williams and Jordan Norwood.
Through the first half of the season, Moye showed flashes of promise, but his performance Saturday represented an exclamation point.
The 6-foot-5 redshirt sophomore caught six passes for 120 yards, and his 12-yard touchdown reception late in the first half was the signature play in Penn State's 20-0 victory over Minnesota on another soggy Saturday at Beaver Stadium.
"I'm just lucky, I guess," Moye told the pack of reporters that engulfed him.
He's humble, too.
The TD reception was one of the better ones in recent Penn State history. With 35 seconds left in the half, and the Lions seemingly headed for their third field goal, Moye somehow snagged a fade pattern in the end zone while keeping a toenail inbounds.
Though the side judge was two feet from the play, he immediately ruled it incomplete.
"I don't know [if] he made that catch," teammate A.J. Wallace said.
At least initially, the official apparently didn't know, either.
"I kind of looked at him, gave him a little glare," Moye said, "but I didn't say anything."
The officials eventually called for their second of four reviews on the day - "I've always been for instant replay," Joe Paterno smirked afterward - and the Lions were awarded a touchdown they needed to gain separation from the Gophers.
Moye's height and long arms provide "a big-time target," quarterback Daryll Clark said.
"His combination of height and speed are tough to handle." quarterbacks coach Jay Paterno said. "He's 6-5, and he runs sub-4.4. We move him around a lot. He's a lot like Butler, but he's 6-5 and Butler's 5-10. He's not quite at Butler's level yet, but he can get there."
Defensive coordinator Tom Bradley said Moye reminds him of former Lion Joe Jurevicius, who was also 6-5.
"He creates a lot of matchup problems for everybody, even us in practice," Bradley said.
Bradley recruited Moye out of Rochester High School in Beaver County. Moye's father, Jeremy, played with former Pitt standout Dwight Collins at Beaver Falls High School.
"I saw a great athlete," Bradley said of Moye. "I saw a guy who lettered in four sports. He'd run track and then come over and play baseball."
Entering Saturday's game, most of the talk about the passing game centered around Minnesota's Eric Decker. Moye said that didn't motivate.
"Not at all," he said.
Not as much, evidently, as the opportunity to establish himself.
"I knew I had three guys graduating in front of me," he said. "I never worked as hard as I did in the offseason, and I think it's starting to pay off."
Moye now has 27 catches on the season for 472 yards (174 per) and four touchdowns.
"We had high hopes for him," JoePa said. "Once in a while he gets careless and takes his eye off the ball. But he's got the makings of a good one."
Of all the plays so far this season, Moye may have been motivated most by his fumble at Illinois that nearly hurt the Lions' momentum.
"I'm the type of person when I do something wrong, I think about it a lot the next week in practice," he said. "I couldn't wait to get out there the next week and redeem myself."
"I think," he added with a gleam in his eye, "I did an all right job of that."
He's inbounds on that, too.
Rudel can be reached at 946-7527 or firstname.lastname@example.org.