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Levene Gouldin & Thompson: Penn State Opener an OT Victory

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STATE COLLEGE, PA -

A rushing touchdown from Miles Sanders and an interception in the end zone by Amani Oruwariye secured a thrilling 45-38 overtime victory for No. 10/9 Penn State over Appalachian State in front of 105,232 roaring fans in Saturday's football season opener at Beaver Stadium.
 
It was the largest crowd for a Penn State season opener since 2008.
 
Trailing by a touchdown with 1 minute, 39 seconds to go in regulation, senior quarterback Trace McSorley engineered a touchdown drive to tie the game at 38-38 and force overtime. Penn State (1-0) went on offense first and handed the ball to Sanders four consecutive times, with his last rush crossing the goal line from 4 yards out. Appalachian State (1-0) threatened, converting a fourth-and-1 to earn a fresh set of downs at the 15-yard line, but Oruwariye picked Zac Thomas' first-down pass off in the back of the end zone to end the game. This is the third consecutive season opener Oruwariye has pulled in an interception.
 
The Nittany Lions held a 24-10 lead through three quarters, but the Mountaineers stormed back in the fourth quarter, scoring four touchdowns and allowing just one for a 38-31 lead with under two minutes to play.
 
Penn State responded as redshirt freshman KJ Hamler setup a game-tying touchdown drive with a 52-yard kickoff return out of the end zone, patiently waiting for a lane to develop before bursting down the right sideline. McSorley went to work from the App State 48 with 1:39 on the clock, going 5-for-6 passing – including a fourth-and-2 conversion – and ultimately connecting with Hamler for a 15-yard touchdown to tie the score at 38-38 with 42 seconds to play.
 
Appalachian State missed a 56-yard field goal attempt on its ensuing drive with 15 seconds left on the clock before the game was sent to overtime. Penn State got the ball first in overtime and handed it over Sanders to do all of the work on the ground. Sanders used four carries to rush for 25 yards and a touchdown that put the Nittany Lions ahead 45-38.
 
After the Mountaineers converted on a fourth down, Thomas heaved a ball into the corner of the end zone, but it was Oruwariye who came down with the pigskin to seal the Penn State victory.
 
McSorley accounted for three touchdowns, two rushing and one passing, and finished with 283 total offense yards. The senior signal caller connected on 21 of his 36 passing attempts.
 
Sanders rushed for 91 yards and two touchdowns, including the game-winner. Linebacker Jan Johnson led the Nittany Lion defense with 11 total tackles.
 
Keys and Difference Makers
Miles Sanders (Penn State, RB) and the Ground Game
Making just his second career start, Sanders enjoyed a career game, setting highs in rushing yards (91), attempts (19) and rushing touchdowns (2), not to mention the game-winning score in overtime.
 
Five of Penn State's six touchdowns scored in the game came on the ground, as McSorley scored two and totaled 53 yards rushing 12 carries. Freshman Ricky Slade added 39 yards on six carries in his debut, including a 27-yard touchdown run late in the third quarter.
 
Trace McSorley (Penn State, QB)
McSorley completed 21-of-36 passes for 230 yards and a touchdown and rushed 12 times for 53 yards and two touchdowns. McSorley now needs just two more rushing touchdowns to tie the Penn State career record for a quarterback, and he extended his FBS-leading streak of consecutive games with a touchdown pass to 29. It was also his 17th career game scoring both a rushing and passing touchdown.
 
KJ Hamler (Penn State, WR/KR)
Hamler made an impact in his collegiate debut, catching four passes for a team-high 68 yards and a game-tying touchdown, while also breaking through for 52 yards on his lone kickoff return to setup the game-tying drive with less than two minutes to go in regulation. The redshirt freshman also hauled in a 46-yard reception early in the fourth quarter, which led to a Miles Sanders rushing touchdown and a 31-17 Penn State lead with 11:17 remaining.
 
Notable Nittany Lions
Wide receiver Juwan Johnson led the Lions with six receptions, totaling 67 yards. He was one of seven receivers that McSorley targeted.
 
On defense, Johnson made his first career start at middle linebacker and totaled a game- and career-high 11 tackles. In the secondary, safety Nick Scott made a career-best nine tackles and registered his first career sack, while Oruwariye's game-ending interception was the sixth of his career.
 
Appalachian State Offense
Making his first career start, quarterback Zac Thomas connected on 25-of-38 pass attempts for 270 yards, a touchdown and one interception, and he added 43 yards and a touchdown on the ground for a game-high 313 yards of total offense. His top target was wide receiver Corey Sutton, who caught six passes for 87 yards, Sutton's afternoon was highlighted by a 39-yard reception to the Penn State 1 in the fourth quarter to setup Thomas' rushing score to tie the game at 31-31 with 6:03 to go in regulation.
 
Additionally, Malik Williams caught a pair of touchdowns, in the fourth quarter and totaled four receptions for 66 yards. Running back Jalin Moore totaled 124 all-purpose yards, rushing for 88 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries and catching five passes for 36 yards.
 
Appalachian State Defense
Linebacker Anthony Flory led the Mountaineers with nine tackles, while fellow linebacker Jordan Fehr added eight.
 
Appalachian State Kickoff Return Touchdown
Penn State scored on the game's opening drive, but App State's Darrynton Evans returned the ensuing kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown. It was the first kickoff return touchdown Penn State had allowed since yielding one at Northwestern in 2015
 
How It Started
Penn State scored on the game's first drive, marching 75 yards on seven plays, with McSorley calling his own number and rushing across the goal line from 12 yards out. The lead was short-lived though as Appalachian State's Darrynton Evans returned the ensuing kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown.
 
The Mountaineers then forced a three-and-out and took the lead, 10-7, with a 38-yard field goal by Chandler Staton with 4:10 remaining in the first quarter.
 
Penn State threatened again early in the second quarter, reaching the App State 31, but McSorley was unable to connect with Johnson on fourth-and-3. The Nittany Lion defense held strong though, only allowing App as close as the Penn State 48 for the remainder of the half.
 
Penn State tied the game at 10-10 with 12 seconds remaining in the half, as freshman Jake Pinegar split the uprights from 32 yards out for his first career field goal. Classmate Rafael Checa successfully bounced the ensuing kickoff off an App State player and Micah Parsons recovered the loose ball at midfield to setup a Hail Mary attempt to end the game, but McSorley's heave was batted away incomplete.
 
Penn State opened a 24-10 lead in the third quarter, as McSorley rushed in himself again from 10 yards out to complete the Nittany Lions' first drive of the new half, and Slade broke free from 27 yards out for his first career rushing touchdown late in the quarter. However, Appalachian State rallied with four touchdowns in the fourth quarter to just two from Penn State, forcing overtime.
 
Up Next
Penn State returns to action next Saturday evening with a primetime showdown at in-state foe Pittsburgh. Kickoff from Heinz Field is slated for 8 p.m. and the game is set to air nationally on ABC.
 
A limited number of single game tickets for the 2018 season presented by PSECU are available for the Kent State and Maryland games. Verified resale tickets are available for all seven home games via ticketmaster.com. With more than 6,300 new season tickets sold, the season ticket allotment for the 2018 season is exhausted. For information on joining the Nittany Lion Club, as well as club seating in Beaver Stadium, fans can visit www.NittanyLionClub.com, call 1-800-NITTANY weekdays from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. or visit the Bryce Jordan Center ticket office weekdays from 10 a.m-6 p.m.

Courtesy: Penn State University Athletics Department