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Penn State dominates early, maintains in 33-14 win over rival Pitt

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Saquon Barkley scored twice and Trace McSorley threw for 164 yards and a trio of touchdowns, as the Nittany Lions achieved revenge in a 33-14 victory over the Pitt Panthers in Happy Valley Saturday.

State College, PA—The valley stays happy for another Saturday.

No. 4 Penn State (2-0) used two early touchdowns to dictate momentum early, keeping cross-state rival Pitt (1-1) at bey for much of the game, holding them to just one touchdown in a 33-14 win over the Panthers at Beaver Stadium Saturday.

The Nittany Lions, who had avenged their 42-39 loss at the hands of Pitt at Heinz Field a season ago, used 101 yards on 14 carries and two touchdowns from running back Saquon Barkley, while putting together a bend-don’t-break defensive campaign that gave up 342 total yards.

“Overall, I thought we played a very complete game,” said James Franklin.  “Our offense is very explosive and that is how we kind of were again today.  We made explosive plays.  Overall, we showed that we could score at any moment.”

 “I thought our defense did a great job of holding them to field goals early on,” continued the Penn State coach.  “We had some drives where I would have liked to create a little more three-and-outs.  Overall, it was really gutsy the way our defense played.”

Pitt quarterback Max Browne, who finished 19 of 32 for 138 yards, was intercepted on the Panthers’ first drive of the game by Grant Haley, which set up a Trace McSorley to Mike Gesicki eight-yard touchdown hook up just one play later, putting the first points of the day on the board.

“That early interception was huge,” said Franklin.  “It kind of set the tone right from the beginning of the game.”

“Coach Franklin put emphasis all week on starting fast and finishing strong,” said Haley, who finished with four tackles and a sack.  “I think that is just what we did today.  We deferred (receiving the ball) until the second half, because we felt good about our defense stopping their run and controlling their passing game.  Just to start the game like that, it was exciting for everybody.”

McSorley connected with Gesicki just seven minutes later—this time on a 10-yard pass play with just over five minutes left in the first quarter—giving the Nittany Lions a commanding 14-0 advantage.

Penn State’s signal-caller finished 15 of 28 for 164 yards and three touchdowns.

“I thought we did a good job of containing their passing,” said the Panthers’ Dewayne Hendrix.  “We made improvements from last week, but we still have to complete games.  We have to slow them down better.”

The Nittany Lions’ offense, which was carried by 146 total yards by the Heisman Trophy candidate Barkley, struggled to find the end zone again until the 10:32 mark of the third quarter, when McSorely connected with Barkley on a 46-yard pass down the middle, which separated the teams at a 21-3 difference.

Pitt managed just one more field goal until the 10:09 mark of the fourth quarter, when backup quarterback Ben DiNucci, who came in for Browne after the starter lost his helmet on the previous play, rushed for three-yards, breaking the plain for the Panthers for the first and last time of the day, capping a 9 play- 75-yard drive.  After a successful two-point conversion, Pitt brought things back to a two-score game.

“I think all day long we had pretty good rhythm,” said a bruised up Browne post-game.  “By no means did we get pushed around.  It took a few drives for us to get things going.”

Qadree Ollison served as the bright spot for the Panthers’ offensive day, clipping 98 yards on 15 carries, while Chawntez Moss chipped in with 46 yards on 11 carries.

“We have to execute.  We have to do better in the red zone,” said Ollison, who watched his offensive unit manage just six points in three and a half quarters on three trips to the red zone.  “Instead of scoring just six points, that could have been 14 points for us, which would have been a difference.  That was a really big thing for us.  We’ll watch the tape and learn from it.”

The Panthers gained momentum stopping Penn State on its ensuing drive after the score but was quickly flipped back around when Marcus Allen tackled Darrin Hall on a swing pass at the goal line forcing a safety and giving the Nittany Lions a commanding 30-14 lead with just under six minutes left in the game.

“They are a very well coached football team,” said Coach Pat Narduzzi of Penn State.  “I got a lot of respect for the way they coach, the way they do it and how they do it, and I told Coach Franklin this after the game.”

“We have to get back to the fundamentals,” the coach continued.  “We have to protect the quarterback.  We have to start making catches and finishing our drives.  There are a lot of things that we have to take from this game and get better at.”

Attendance

The 7th largest crowd in Beaver Stadium history showed up Saturday for the cross state rivalry, with 109,898 in attendance.  The crowd was the largest since 2009 vs. Ohio State.

Pulling no punches

Franklin made it known at his post-press conference that Saturday’s win over Pitt was nothing more than just another win on the schedule.

“The most important thing is that we’re 1-0 this week, and that we were able to get a win,” said Franklin.  “That’s what this was for us, guys.  I know last year, for their win, it was like the Super Bowl, but for us this was just like beating Akron.”

Up next

The Nittany Lions will face Georgia State next Saturday at Beaver Stadium.  Kickoff is set for 7:30 PM.  Pitt will look to pull off an upset as they look at a much more arduous task in its matchup with Oklahoma State on Saturday at Heinz Field.  Kickoff for that game is set for noon. 

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