Game 538: Nittany Lions feast on Pitt Panthers, 33-14
State College, PA – In workman-like fashion, the No. 5 Penn State Nittany Lions (2-0) dominated traditional rival Pittsburgh (1-1) early on offense and throughout on defense to win Collegefootballfan.com Game 538 since 1979. This game became the 98th in the series which has been interrupted by more recent conference scheduling conflicts. PSU lost one of its two regular season games last year in a defeat at Pittsburgh, 43-18. The Lions looked to extract some revenge to start the 2017 season on a better foot with a win over its intrastate rival first played in 1893.
Penn State performed with efficiency, not flashiness in this game. Despite the Panthers outgaining the Lions 342 to 312 in total offense, the Lions ran 52 offensive plays compared to the Panther’s 86. Three turnovers halted Pitt drives. One resulted in an immediate touchdown. A safety netted five more points as the next possession yielded a FG drive.
PSU DB Grant Haley intercepted USC transfer Max Browne’s pass on the team’s first defensive series returning to the Pitt eight. Trace McSorely (15 for 18, 164 yards, # TDs, 1 Int) connected TE Mike Gesicki right away for 7-0 lead. Before the first period expired, McSorely connected again with Gesicki for a 10-yard TD pass to lead, 14-0. Late in Q2, Pitt put together a 15-play drive finished off by an Alex Kressman 28-yard FG to make the score 14-3 at halftime.
Great weather prevailed in Central Pennsylvania while fans down in Florida faced devastation from Hurricane Irma (like those recovering in Texas, out thoughts and prayers are with them). The renewed rivalry for which we hope the two schools will find a way to continue playing annually brought 109,898 to Beaver Stadium in Happy Valley. Pulled pork prepared by Ty turned out to be the highlight of our pre-game tailgate feast accompanied by some of our favorite pregame concoctions and snacks. The Lions continued to methodically feast on Panthers in the second half of our Game 538.
DeAndre Tompkins returned a Pitt punt 14 yards to the Pitt 46. McSorely tossed a pass to RB Saquon Barkley over the middle who swerved, dodged, and broke tackles into the end zone for a 21-3 Nittany Lion lead. Pitt responded with a 24-yard FG by Kressman. The Lions’ defense kept the Panthers from any quick, long gains.
In the final period, the Lions drove 78 yards with Barkley (14 carries, 88 yards, 1 TD) a legitimate Heisman candidate, putting up six more for the Nittanies with a two-yard TD run. Pitt second team QB Ben DiNucci finished a scoring drive on the visitor’s next possession with a three-yard run and connected with Qaddree Ollison for two points to cut the score in half, 28-14. The score was not indicative of the Lion dominance. Penn State P Blake Gillikin’s punt put Pitt back on its four. Two plays later, S Marcus Allen downed WR Darrin Hall in the end zone after a catch for a safety. PSU’s ensuing possession resulted in a Tyler Davis 24-yard FG.
High expectations for the Nittany Lions
Final score of 33-14 stirred happiness in Happy Valley, but many PSU faithful found the win to be somewhat unimpressive. Many hold high expectations for the Nittany Lions this year. Many expect more every week out to their Lions. Some big challenges still lie ahead. The Lions seem to be building up for them, looking to peak at the right time. We will be back on Oct. 21 for Michigan. The kick-off time for that contest has not been announced yet.
Next Saturday Panthers of another species prowl into the Happy Valley. Georgia State (0-1) comes to play the Lions for the first time. James Franklin ran some satellite camps with them down in Atlanta to penetrate SEC recruiting territory. He returns the favor with a big pay-out to host GSU. Pitt hosts No. 9 Oklahoma State (2-0) at Heinz Field. After Game 538, Collegefootballfan.com pulls a double-header weekend. On Friday night, we stop in Philly to see UMASS (0-3) with TE Adam Breneman take on Temple at “the Linc”. The Owls (1-1) just got by FCS Villanova last Saturday, 16-13. They seem to still be in a transition mode with new HC Geoff Collins taking over for departed Matt Rhule who went to Baylor. My concerns for his departure are coming to light, but it’s still early for both Rhule and for Temple. The next morning, we fly to Minneapolis to see the Golden Gophers (2-0) under new HC P.J. Fleck formerly of Western Michigan play Middle Tennessee State (1-1) of the Sun Belt. For Collegefootballfan.com, it will be only the second time we will see MTSU play. Minnesota’s TCF Bank Stadium will be the 52nd of the FBS home venues we will attend a game at.