Five Things We Learned: Akron
It was the first Saturday of 2017 with competitive football in Happy Valley and the Nittany Lions were firing on all cylinders. Penn State got off to a hot start in the first half and never looked back as they cruised their way to a 52-0 shutout of their opposition, the Akron Zips. After shaking off an early interception, Trace McSorley looked to be in midseason form as him and Saquon Barkley led the offense to an all-around dominate performance. The Zips could not stir up any kind of offense against the Lions, who only gave up 159 total yards and forced a turnover. The Penn State faithful can take away these notes from their week 1 win at home.
1. Trace McSorley’s legs are just as dangerous as his arm. Last year Penn State fans were used to seeing McSorley throw deep ball after deep ball, but if week one’s play calling has any reflection on what to expect for the rest of the season then we could see two first team speedsters running behind the offensive line. Whether it was a quarterback read or a designed keep, McSorley was living up to the “Wizard” nickname that Gus Johnson donned on him during last year’s Big Ten Championship. McSorley finished the game with only 48 yards rushing, but his ability to run will cause the defense to be cautious, which opens up the passing lanes.
2. Does college football and Penn State miss Joey Julius? Of course, the school and general public will miss Julius, who announced his departure from the university in the summer in order to seek further help for his eating disorder. Julius made a name for himself after appearing on SportsCenter’s top 10 plays for the giant hits he laid on kickoff returns during the 2016 season. However, Penn State fans will miss much more than just his monstrous tackles. As seen on Saturday, the Lions kickoffs were shaky to say the least. I understand that the only kickoff to be penalized was by Alex Barbir, the second-string kicker, but Tyler Davis’s kicks were not all too convincing.
3. Penn State’s O-line looks like the real deal. No, Akron does not boast the best front seven in college football and it is even reasonable to say it is not in the top 100, but that does not take away from what the Lions did on Saturday. Penn State did not allow a sack and helped the team run for a combined total of 247 yards. Much of Penn State’s success this year will come down to the blocking in the trenches, so hopefully we can see an impressive front line each and every game this season.
4. Expect to see Tommy Stevens a lot. We all remember seeing Stevens lineup in the receiver position last year in the game against Iowa in a play which ended with him bulldozing his way into the end zone for six. We all got to get a good look at Moorhead’s offense for the upcoming season and Stevens should be an integral part. Stevens showed off some flair today with his great speed and he caught the Zips sleeping when McSorley dumped a back pass off to him, which Stevens then connected with DaeSean Hamilton for a big gain. With that being said, I am excited to see what else Moorhead has up his sleeve for the rest of the season.
5. The Penn State defense has the potential to be the best it has been in the past 10 years. The “Wild Dogs” and company made it an uncomfortable day for the Zips as they had no breathing room. If the Nittany Lions can somehow string consecutive defensive outings such as the one seen on Saturday, then fans can expect a very good season, and potentially a playoff berth. Only time will tell and Penn State will face a tougher challenges as the season goes on.
Christopher Keating is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.