Nittany Lions Extract Revenge and Tame the Pitt Panthers
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – After a week one throttling of Akron, the Penn State Nittany Lions welcomed their longtime rival Pittsburgh to Happy Valley. The No. 4 ranked Nittany Lions were looking to extract revenge on their in-state rival after last year’s defeat and they got the job done. Penn State defeated the Panthers 33-14 and dominated for 60 minutes.
It was no secret Penn State was out for revenge after their 42-39 loss last season on the road in Pittsburgh. One of their two losses last season came to the Panthers and this was a different Pitt team that came to Penn State. They lost their starting quarterback Nathan Peterman and running back James Conner.
“I thought we played a complete game,” head coach James Franklin said after the game. “I’d like us sustain some more drives, but overall we showed we can score at any moment”
Before the game, the 2016 Big Ten champion Penn State team was honored with their “2016” Big Ten title plaque being put up next to the 2012 plaque.
The first quarter began with fireworks and a hot start for Penn State. Pitt quarterback Max Browne’s first pass attempt was a miscommunication with the wide receiver and resulted in an interception for cornerback Grant Haley.
On the very next play, Penn State quarterback Trace McSorley found a wide-open Mike Gesicki in the end zone after the Panther defense bit on a read option fake to running back Saquon Barkley.
A little later, McSorley hit Gesicki inside the Pitt 10-yard line and the top Penn State tight end found his way into the end zone again to make it 14-0 after the first quarter.
After that, the Penn State offense struggled throughout. They couldn’t get the run game going and McSorley was missing open receivers. For a while, McSorley had more rushing yards than passing and Barkley had more receiving yards than rushing yards. Both Heisman hopefuls featured odd and low stat lines heading into halftime.
The only story that overshadowed the inconsistent offense was the stout, aggressive Penn State defense. Browne frequently had Nittany Lion defenders in his face and Pitt’s run game was essentially non-existent in the first half. The Penn State defense did a great job to hold Pitt to a field goal in the first half and keep the score 14-3 after 30 minutes.
The second half, much like the first, went Penn State’s way. The defense came out stiff again and on offense, McSorley hit Barkley in stride down the middle for a beautiful 46-yard touchdown. Pitt answered right back and drove all the way to the Penn State 10-yard line. For the second time though, the Penn State defense held strong and only allowed a field goal.
The game was essentially put away at the start of the fourth quarter when Barkley muscled his way for an eight-yard touchdown and extended the lead to 28-6.
Max Browne exited with an injury and backup quarterback Ben DiNucci ran in the first and only touchdown of the day for the Panthers. Later, Penn State pressured Pitt in their own end zone and defensive captain Marcus Allen came up with a safety.
“It felt good,” Allen said on his safety. “Anytime you make a play it just feels good especially a play like that to show my energy.”
Even in the last minute of the game with Pitt knocking on the end zone door, the Blue and White stood tall and forced a turnover on downs that sealed the game.
Overall, McSorley was not great, but he made plays when he had to with his arm and his legs. Barkley did not electrify the whole game, but when he was in open space he made Pitt pay and looked like the burner fans are used to seeing.
McSorley finished with 164 yards and three touchdowns, Barkley had 133 all-purpose yards and two touchdowns and Gesicki had 39 yards and two touchdowns. On the defensive side of the ball, Allen notched 12 tackles, nine solo, and defensive end Shareef Miller finished with 2.5 sacks.
The offense sputtered somewhat but got the job done. The defense, however, controlled the whole game and recorded nine sacks, even when they were on the field for 38 minutes.
Penn State will cap off their season opening homestand next Saturday at 7:30 p.m. for a primetime, out of conference matchup with Georgia State. These Panthers, with the same mascot as Pitt, have only been playing college football since 2010 and this will be their first ever game against Penn State. This will be the Nittany Lions’ last matchup before Big Ten play begins.
Matthew Harvey is a senior majoring in broadcast journalism and history. To contact him, email at email@example.com.