The Penn State Nittany Lions fell in an instant classic Saturday afternoon to the Pittsburgh Panthers 42-39 at Heinz Field. Here’s what the Nittany Lions had to cheer about and what they had to jeer about from the game.
- Resiliency- Pitt took the ball 99 yards on its opening drive to the end zone and Penn State never could recover. The Panthers went up 28-7 early in the first half, but the Nittany Lions grinded them out and nearly pulled off the improbable comeback. Penn State may have lost by three points on the scoreboard, but at no point did they ever seem to be out of the game. Offensively, the Nittany Lions scratched and clawed their way back into the game and took advantage of a weaker Pitt secondary Saturday afternoon.
- Saquon Barkley – Sophomore standout Saquon Barkley joined kicker Tyler Davis as the only Nittany Lions to score Saturday afternoon. The second-year running back rushed for only 85 yards, but scored five total touchdowns, four on the ground and one on a 40-yard pass from Trace McSorley. Barkley had 130 total yards for a Penn State offense that had 406 total yards.
- Getting Offensive – Penn State had 406 yards of total offense with only 76 coming via the ground game. McSorley torched the Pitt secondary for 332-yards through the air. The offense for the Nittany Lions put up 39 points on five Barkley touchdowns and a Davis field goal. It was the first time offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead’s offense has been unleashed this season and it showed why Moorhead was a good fit for the Penn State program.
- Key Turnovers – Pitt took advantage of two McSorley fumbles and put 14 points on the board as a result. The two first-half fumbles doomed the Penn State offense and they were truly never able to recover from the 14-point swing. Barkley had a fumble early in the second half as the Nittany Lions were driving and looking to score at least a field goal, but the Panthers were unable to do anything with their resulting possession. Penn State was in it until the last minute of the game until McSorley lofted a ball into the end zone between two Nittany Lions receivers, but Ryan Lewis was there to haul in the interception and seal the victory for Pitt.
- Jet Sweeps and the Rushing Defense – In a city known for its massive airport, Pitt ran the jet sweep early and often to much success. Quadree Henderson ran for 58 yards via the jet sweep in the first half, however, Penn State stuffed out the jet sweep in the second half. The Nittany Lions gave up 137 yards on the ground in the first quarter alone and stopping the run seemed to be a difficult thing for the Penn State defense to grasp throughout the game until the fourth quarter. Penn State was torched for 341 yards on the ground. Giving up big chunks of yards on the ground has been a trend for the Nittany Lions this season and will only get worse in Big Ten play if Penn State can’t get it together.
- Offensive Line woes continue – The offensive line for the Nittany Lions was blown through early and often Saturday afternoon. While Pitt is a better defensive unit than Kent State last week, Penn State needs to be able to have time for McSorley to throw. When McSorley had enough time, his receivers were able to get separation and get open deep. The Nittany Lions gave up only four sacks, but also seven tackles for loss and four quarterback hurries. On both of McSorley’s fumbles, he was hit from the blind side before any sort of play could develop. As the team gets deeper into conference play and the season, protecting McSorley is going to be imperative to the offense’s success.
Highlight of the Game
Today we focus on running back Saquon Barkley.
Saquon Barkley soars HIGH above the Pitt line for a TD https://t.co/hH0HVA7xY9
— Jack McGuire (@BigDaddysCourt) September 10, 2016
Barkley dazzles college football fans each and every week with his quick feet and agility when he gets into the open field. Barkley is also known for his high-flying ability as seen in the video above on one of his five scores on the day.
Player Of The Game
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The Player of the Game poll will return next week in full form.
Penn State returns home to take on Temple for a noon kickoff. During the game, the Nittany Lions will be honoring the late Joe Paterno with a ceremony commemorating the 50th anniversary of his first game on the sidelines with Penn State. The Owls of Temple won 38-0 over the Stony Brook Seawolves Saturday afternoon.