Five Things We Learned: Buffalo
Despite playing from behind to start the second half, No. 15 Penn State was able to rally past Buffalo and secure the 45-13 victory on Saturday. Here are five things we learned from the game:
1. Penn State successfully overcame early adversity
The 79-7 blowout win over Idaho last week was a cake walk for Sean Clifford and company. However, Buffalo had Penn State’s number in the first half by winning time of possession and preventing big plays down the field.
Whatever head coach James Franklin said to his team during halftime worked, and Penn State regained the lead rather quickly in the third quarter. Explosive plays outside the numbers was an integral part of the team’s success, particularly from wide receivers Jahan Dotson and KJ Hamler.
2. John Reid could be the X-factor for Penn State’s defense
Fifth year cornerback John Reid is finally healthy and beginning to show the world why he’s a name worth remembering. Reid took it to the house after reading Buffalo wide receiver Antonio Nunn’s route perfectly, which completely shifted the momentum of the game in Penn State’s favor. The Nittany Lions’ front seven gets a ton of love from the media but it is Reid who is proving to be a real game changer.
3. Pat Freiermuth is Sean Clifford’s safety net
Penn State alum Mike Gesicki was able to thrive under Franklin, so sophomore tight end Pat Freiermuth figures to do the same. There are certainly a ton of explosive weapons on the outside that are at quarterback Sean Clifford’s disposal, but Freiermuth’s ability to work between the numbers can’t be overstated.
\Albeit an underclassman, Freiermuth has plenty of game experience and a knack for finding the end zone. Proof is in the pudding with his two touchdowns on the day.
4. Penn State needs to establish the run game
Clifford’s 11 carries was the most on the team, which isn’t ideal considering he’s not an extremely mobile quarterback to begin with. The Penn State running backs totaled seven touchdowns against Idaho. For this game, however, they were irrelevant.
To be fair, Buffalo’s rush defense was pretty good, but Penn State wasn’t particularly showing any interest of sticking to the ground game either. There isn't one Penn State fan who wants to see Clifford taking the amount of hits he’s endured over the first two games of the season.
5. Penn State starts off slow for two consecutive weeks
Penn State got into its groove against Idaho after a few so-so drives by the offense, but it took basically an entire half for them to do so this time around. To the credit of Buffalo they did not back down in a hostile, road environment, but Penn State can’t squeak by in the Big Ten playing like this.
The Nittany Lions won’t get settled in if they refuse to commit to the running game. After all, Penn State models their playcalling off run-pass options (RPO's). When the run game is in full swing, play action plays are open and that heightens Clifford’s ability to improvise and sling the ball downfield.
Hunter Pitcoff is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.