A Tale of Two Halves

The Penn State Nittany Lion Football team beat the Pitt Panthers 51 to 6 in a game where the play was often as sloppy as the weather. For Penn State, it was truly the tale of two halves.  After Pitt inadvertently chose to receive the ball to start the game Penn State quickly forced a 3 and out. 4 plays and 73 yards later Penn State would score to go up 7-0. It looked as though it may be an easy night but then things got weird.

The Penn State Defense Struggled Early

The Penn State Defense struggled early in this game giving up yards in bunches on the ground.  Many fans, including this one, were having flashbacks of 2 years ago when Penn State seemed helpless against the run.  Missed tackles and bad angles of pursuit led to the Panthers racking up over 200 rushing yards in the first half.  They have got to clean up these mistakes before BIG Ten play begins.

Second Half Improvements

Penn State made the proper adjustments in the second half and strangely Pitt kept trying to run against them.  Penn State struggled against the pass in the 4th quarter last week against Appalachian State but Pitt was determined to try to win the game on the ground. For about 1 and 2/3rds quarters it worked but in the second half, the Penn Stated defense held Pitt to just 99 yards in the second half. More than half of those came against Penn State’s third team.  The Penn State defense dominated the third quarter allowing just 5 yards.

Blake Gillikin Is A Weapon

“Blake was a huge difference in the game as far as swinging field positions.” – James Franklin

Gillikin should be given credit for the safety as his punts consistently pinned the Panthers close to their own goal line. He is an NFL punter in a Nittany Lion uniform.  He is a underrated weapon on this team that has the ability to flip field position.

Dropped Passes

The final score may mask some of the bad play in this one including the wide receivers who certainly had trouble catching the ball.  The weather was certainly not doing them any favors but they have got to do a better job of hauling in passes that hit them in the hands. McSoreley’s numbers ( 14/30 145 yards and 2 touchdowns) do not look outstanding in this one and the dropped passes are a big part of the reason why.

Miles Sanders Is Seizing the Opportunity

Sanders carried the ball 16 times for 118 yards and another 6 yards receiving. He had a long touchdown run after a catch called back due to offensive pass interference. Sanders has shown incredible improvement with ball control as he has zero fumbles so far this season which is something that plagued him earlier in his career. Sanders shows great vision and balance and is deceptively fast. So far, this season, he has filled in nicely to the enormous vacancy left by Saqoun Barkley.

Ricky Slade Had a Night To Forget

Slade had 2 fumbles on the night and just 13 yards on 4 carries. He is young and growing pains are to be expected. Once he gets things figured out at this level he will be an exciting player to watch. For now, though, this is Miles Sander’s team when it comes to the run game.

Run It Up James, Leave No Doubt

I am sure some criticism will follow with Jame’s Franklin’s Nittany Lons throwing the ball up 44-6 with less than 5 minutes to go in the game. He also challenged a fumble a few minutes later that extended the length of the game. If anyone thinks Narduzzi wouldn’t have done the same thing then you have not been paying attention.

Room For Improvement

When you look at the final score it may seem as though Penn State played a perfect game. This could not be farther from the truth which is actually good news for the Nittany Lions and their fans. Penn State has not yet hit their stride and the mistakes are all fixable. They clearly have as much talent on the team as anyone in the country not named Alabama and just need to put it all together. I have no doubt, we will continue to have some growing pains in the next few games, but Penn State proved tonight that they will be a contender all season long.

Up Next

Penn State heads back to Happy Valley next weekend where they will face Kent State at 12:00 am.