Five Things We Learned: Penn State vs Kent State
The 11th-ranked Penn State Nittany Lions closed out their non-conference schedule with a dominating 63-10 win over the Kent State Golden Flashes. Kent State gave Penn State a little challenge in the first half, trailing only 21-10 late in the second quarter before Nittany Lions senior quarterback Trace McSorley scored with four seconds left in the first half to bump the lead to 28-10. Penn State’s talent took over in the second half outscoring Kent State 35-0 en route to their third win of the season. McSorley continues to lead the way for Penn State with five total touchdowns. He threw for 229 yards and two touchdowns and was effective in the run game as well with 54 yards and three touchdowns. Here are the five things we learned from the big win over Kent State.
1. The young defense is improving
After an outstanding effort in the second half against Pitt last weekend, the Nittany Lions defense continued their momentum this week. The defense was swarming all game. They had 15 tackles for loss, including seven sacks and held the Kent State running game in check, allowing only 41 rushing yards. Senior defensive end Shareef Miller had a big game in this one with two sacks and another tackle for loss. Also, freshman defensive end Jayson Oweh recorded the first two sacks of his college career. Over the last six quarters the Penn State defense has given up one touchdown and is starting to play at an elite level. They need that to continue as the Big Ten Conference schedule begins next Friday.
2. Offensive penalties in big spots have to decrease.
On three separate occasions throughout the game, the Penn State offense generated a big play that led to a touchdown but was called back because of a penalty. Penn State had nine penalties for 109 yards. That’s too much. Against a team like Kent State penalties in big spots may not be that big of a deal, but with elite teams upcoming on the schedule penalties can make or break the outcome of a game.
3. Juwan Johnson continues to be practically invisible in the passing game
Coming into the season senior wide receiver Juwan Johnson was supposed to be a viable option in the passing game. So far through three games he just hasn’t been producing. Coming off a pretty solid season in 2017 with 701 receiving yards, expectations in 2018 were high. To this point, however, Johnson has recorded only eight receptions for 90 yards. In this past game against Kent State he was targeted many times but did not record a catch. With Big Ten Conference play starting next week, the Nittany Lions need the senior receiver to step up.
4. The strong suit of the offense seems to be the rushing attack.
The running game continues to be a huge asset in the offensive game plan. Penn State ran for 297 yards Saturday. Miles Sanders is showing he is a capable replacement for Saquan Barkley with a nice start to the season. The Nittany Lions had four different players with over 50 yards rushing, and four different players with rushing touchdowns. Through three games this season the Nittany Lions have rushed for an average of 237.6 yards a game. If this continues, it opens so much for the play action and the rest of the passing game. Let’s see if the dominance on the ground continues at this rate in the upcoming weeks.
5. Trace McSorley is a legitimate contender for Big Ten Offensive Player of the year and other postseason awards.
Penn State goes where the senior quarterback takes them. He is the leader on this football team, and when palms get sweaty in the fourth quarter he has a knack for coming up big. In this game vs. Kent State, McSorley was responsible for five touchdowns. He is a nightmare for opposing defenses because of his dual-threat ability as a passer and runner. He continues to improve each week and will be a legitimate contender for many postseason awards if he can lead Penn State to some high profile wins in Big Ten Conference play.
Matthew McClure is a junior broadcast journalism major. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.