Nittany Lions Take Down Kent State 33-13 in Season Opener
UNIVERSITY PARK---Unlike a season ago, the Penn State Nittany Lions (1-0) started 2016 off in winning fashion, taking care of the visiting Kent State Golden Flashes (0-1) 33-13 in Trace McSorley’s first start at quarterback. The redshirt sophomore had big shoes to fill, taking over for Penn State passing record holder and NFL-bound Christian Hackenberg, and he showed today why he has a bright future at Penn State.
After a shaky first couple of drives saw Kent State take a 3-0 lead, McSorley led the Lions on an 11 play, 64-yard touchdown drive capped off by a 4-yard pass to DaeSean Hamilton. McSorley finished the day 16-31 passing for 209 yards and two touchdowns as well as 47 yards on the ground, part of the new dual-threat revolution under first-year offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead.
“His composure was really good,” head coach James Franklin said of McSorley’s level headedness. “That’s kind of who he is, he’s been that way every day I’ve seen him and that toughness aspect is going to be really important.”
Sophomore standout Saquon Barkley ran for 105 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries to supplement McSorley, which really seemed to help the quarterback relax and make smarter decisions throughout the game.
Barkley was the beneficiary of great field position on his touchdown run as a Kent State fumble recovered by Marcus Allen left the Lions 13 yards away from the end zone. Two carries later, Penn State had a 13-6 lead with 41 seconds to go in the first quarter.
Joey Julius made perhaps the play of the game on the ensuing kickoff, pancaking Kent State returner Kavious Price after a 22-yard return to a standing ovation from the Beaver Stadium faithful.
Despite their turnover woes and the lopsided scoreline, Kent State had a chance to tie the game going into halftime, but a 54-yard field goal attempt by Shane Hynes landed just short of the goalpost to keep the score at 16-13 going into the half.
Penn State seized complete control of the game on the first Kent State possession of the second half as Amani Oruwariye jumped a route beautifully and took the Justin Agner pass 30 yards to the house for a pick six, Penn State’s first interception return since 2014.
“I was running and it’s like the whole stadium went silent,” said a grinning Oruwariye postgame. “Suddenly I was just in the end zone and turned around to celebrate with my teammates.”
Brandon Bell added an interception of his own at the end of the third quarter to cap a stellar but certainly not unexpected performance, going up against a team that finished dead last in the FBS last season in total offense. The Nittany Lion defense forced three turnovers and produced 14 points off those turnovers.
A 67-yard touchdown drive late in the game sealed the win, as McSorley found tight end Mike Gesicki from 30 yards out to push the score to 33-13 with only two minutes remaining.
Penn State travels to Pittsburgh to take on their in-state foes in a renewed rivalry next Saturday while Kent State returns home to host North Carolina A&T before a visit to Alabama on September 24.
Tom Shively is a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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