LG&T: Nittany Lions March in PittsburghPosted: Updated:
Penn State never trailed as success in all three phases of the game and a dominant second half led the Nittany Lions to a 51-6 victory over Pittsburgh on a rainy Saturday night at Heinz Field.
The 45-point margin of victory was the largest in the Penn State-Pitt series since a 52-point win (65-9) over the Panthers in 1968.
The teams were only separated by a missed extra point (7-6) for the majority of the first half, but Penn State (2-0) never looked back after quarterback Trace McSorley connected with wide receiver KJ Hamler for a touchdown just before halftime, giving the Lions a 14-6 lead. The seven points were the first of 44 unanswered that the Nittany Lions would score, of which 37 came in the second half.
The Nittany Lion defense held Pitt (1-1) to 69 yards in the second half, including minus-2 in the third quarter. On offense McSorley rushed and passed for a touchdown, Mark Allen rushed for a touchdown and quarterback Sean Clifford threw a 34-yard touchdown pass to Brandon Polk on his first career play. On special teams, DeAndre Thompkins returned a punt for a touchdown, while the defense added two points with a safety.
McSorley completed 14-of-30 passes for 145 yards as wet and rainy conditions factored in several dropped passes, but he threw for two touchdowns and rushed five times for 36 yards and a touchdown. Hamler was the leading receiver with three catches for 40 yards and a touchdown, and he also scored Penn State's first touchdown of the game on a jet sweep from 32 yards out. Additionally, running back Miles Sanders posted his first career 100-yard rushing game, totaling 118 yards on 16 carries, with a long rush of 41 yards.
Keys and Difference Makers
Turnovers and Field Position
Pitt was stopped twice inside the Penn State 5-yard line in the first half, as cornerback Amani Oruwariye intercepted a Pitt pass at the 3-yard line late in the first quarter and cornerback Zech McPhearson dropped Pitt running back Qadree Ollison for a 3-yard loss on fourth-and-3 at the Penn State 4 late in the second quarter.
Penn State benefited from another turnover late in the first half following the fourth-down stop. The Nittany Lions went three-and-out, but punter Blake Gillikin boomed a 47-yard punt to the Pitt 38. Penn State then forced a three-and-out and Pitt punter Kirk Christodoulou fumbled the snap, allowing Jarvis Miller to recover it for Penn State at the Pitt 35. It took Penn State just three plays to find the end zone. After an incompletion, Sanders rushed for 21 yards and then McSorley found Hamler wide open over the middle for a 14-yard touchdown reception and a 14-6 lead.
In the second half, Penn State's average field position was its own 46, while Pitt was mired at its own 18. Six of Pitt's nine offensive drives in the second half started inside its own 16, including its first four of the half.
Gillikin enjoyed a strong game punting, with three punts inside the 10, four inside the 20 and two punts for more than 50 yards.
Second Half Defense
Pitt outgained Penn State 231-188 in the first half, with 214 yards rushing, but the Nittany Lions tightened up in the second half. Pitt lost 2 yards in the third quarter and managed just 71 yards in the fourth, also only gaining just five first downs. Penn State never let Pitt's passing game off the ground, holding quarterback Kenny Pickett to just 55 yards on nine completions and an interception on 18 passing attempts for the game.
Miles Sanders (Penn State, RB) and the Ground Game
Penn State surpassed 200 yards rushing as a team for a fifth consecutive game, led by Sanders' 118 yards. McSorley added 36 yards and a touchdown on five carries, while Hamler's first career rush went for 32 yards and a touchdown. Allen rushed for 12 yards and his first touchdown since the 2016 season.
Trace McSorley (Penn State, QB)
McSorley was responsible for three touchdowns, throwing for two and running for one. He completed 14-of-30 passes for 145 yards and touchdowns to redshirt freshmen Hamler and Mac Hippenhammer, while running for a touchdown amongst his five carries for 36 yards. It was McSorley's 18th career game with both a rushing and passing touchdown, and he has now completed a touchdown pass in 30 consecutive games, extending his school-record and FBS-leading streak.
KJ Hamler (Penn State, WR/KR)
Hamler enjoyed his first multi-touchdown game, registering the game's first score on a 32-yard run, and then hauling in a 14-yard touchdown catch just before halftime to give Penn State a 14-6 lead going into the locker room. His three receptions were a game high, and he totaled 40 yards.
Redshirt freshman KJ Hamler scored his first rushing touchdown for Penn State's first score of the game. In the fourth quarter, classmate Mac Hippenhammer scored his first receiving touchdown on his first reception and classmate Sean Clifford threw his first career touchdown pass on his first collegiate play.
Penn State proved to be the more disciplined team and has been flagged just six times in the first two weeks. The Nittany Lions totaled just four penalties for 45 yards, while Pitt committed 13 penalties for 101 yards. A roughing the passer penalty keyed Penn State's first scoring drive in the third quarter, as it occurred on a third down play that was short of the line to gain.
Qadree Ollison (Pitt, RB)
Ollison rushed 21 times for 119 yards and a touchdown to lead Pitt offensively. However, the Nittany Lions were able to contain him in the second half, limiting him to minus-6 yards on four carries.
Penn State forced a three-and-out after Pitt received the opening kickoff, and then was first to score after a pair of chunk plays. A 22-yard completion to Jonathan Holland moved the Lions into Pitt territory at the 42, a penalty moved the Lions to the 32, and then Hamler found the end zone on a jet sweep. Pitt answered with a 10-play, 75-yard touchdown drive capped with a 13-yard Ollison touchdown run. However, Penn State retained the lead as the extra point attempt failed as the holder could not get the wet ball down.
After the teams traded missed field goals, Pitt was able to regain possession of the ball in Penn State territory with 7:30 remaining in the quarter as linebacker Quintin Wirginis forced a fumble and Rashad Weaver recovered it at the 31. Pitt drove to the 4-yard line and went for it on fourth-and-3, but McPhearson dropped Ollison for a 3-yard loss with 4:44 remaining in the half.
Penn State was forced to punt on its next possession, and forced Pitt to do the same, however Pitt punter Christodoulou fumbled the snap and Jarvis Miller recovered it at the Pitt 35, leading to a Penn State touchdown and 14-6 halftime lead.
Penn State extended its lead to 21-6 near the midpoint of the third quarter. Starting at Pitt's 40 after the Panthers managed just a 27-yard punt, Penn State advanced on three Sanders rushes for 20 yards and a 15-yard roughing the passer penalty, setting up a 4-yard touchdown run for McSorley.
Strong kickoff coverage and a penalty pinned Pitt at its own 8, and a false start penalty pushed them back to the 4. Pickett attempted to pass from his own end zone, but Ellison Jordan was held, resulting in a safety and a 23-6 lead. Thompkins then returned a punt 39 yards just before the end of the third quarter for a 30-6 advantage.
In the fourth quarter, McSorley connected with Hippenhammer with 11:40 remaining from 11 yards out. The Lions took advantage of good field position for a 61-yard touchdown drive, as Allen rushed in from 4 yards out. Jabari Butler forced a fumble on Pitt's next possession, leading to Clifford's 34-yard touchdown pass on his first play to Brandon Polk with 4:21 remaining for the final margin.
Penn State returns to action next Saturday, hosting Kent State. Kickoff from Beaver Stadium is slated for noon and the game is set to air nationally on FS1.
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