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Monday April 22 2019
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Penn St Punishes Pitt in 51-6 Blowout

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The Panthers were held to just 300 total yards and found the end zone just one time in Penn State's dismantling of the home team at a waterlogged Heinz Field Saturday night.
When it rains, Pitt's poor.

Penn St (2-0) closed the third of four installments in the Keystone Classic by stampeding through the Panthers in a 51-6 blowout at a soggy Heinz Field Saturday night.

The 45-point beating was the worst in the rivalry series since PSU topped the Panthers 65-9 in 1968.

“I apologize to Pitt nation out there,” said coach Pat Narduzzi.  “That was not Pitt football.”

The Nittany Lions held Pitt (1-1) to a halting 69 total yards in the second half with just five first downs. 

“We played a tough, well-coached opponent on the road in the rain,” said Penn St coach James Franklin.  “Based on their style of offense, some people would say that would give them an advantage.  We had to overcome that and handle that.”

The Panthers' offensive struggles began in the passing attack, where Kenny Pickett tossed for just 55 yards on 9 of 18 passing with an interception.

“There's no excuse for it,” explained the sophomore Pickett.  “We came in.  We got beat.  Plain and simple.  I'm not going to sit here and say I wish we could have done this, I wish we could have done that.  It is what it is, we got beat.”

Narduzzi saw the conditions, where a steady stream of rain fell from start to finish, as an issue with establishing a successful air attack.

“I think when you get into a passing game in this weather, you'll have a problem,” said Narduzzi.  “Kenny didn't look like himself back there in the pocket.  Certainly not just Kenny's fault.  It starts with me.  It starts with Shawn Watson.  It starts with Kenny and it goes right down the line.”

Penn State found much less issues with a dampened air assault, as Trace McSorley found success with a pair of touchdowns through the air, including a 14-yard hookup with KJ Hamler to give the Nittany Lions a 21-6 advantage with 26 seconds left in the first half.  

“We had an all-around team effort today,” said McSorley, who threw for 145 yards on 14 of 30 passing, with a four-yard rushing touchdown that capped an eight play, 40-yard drive midway through the third quarter that stabbed a 21-6 dagger into the heart of Pitt. 

McSorley's first endzone strike through the air answered a muffed handle by punter Kirk Christodoulou, who fumbled a snap at the Panther 35-yard line just three plays prior.

Christodoulou, a backup holder, who was forced into the duties Saturday due to an injury sidelining Jake Scarton, fumbled a snap on the extra point attempt on Pitt's only touchdown—a Qadree Ollison 13-yard dash that capped a 10-play, 75-yard drive with 7:09 left in the first quarter.

Ollison served as the Panthers' lone silver lining offensively, as the tailback rattled off 119 yards on 21 carries, hitting the century mark for the first time since 2015.

“We lost.  That's the bottom line,” said Ollison.  “We have to get better from it.  We have to learn from it.  I think we will.”

Fourth and Three

Pitt's glowing torch of momentum all but flamed out with just over four minutes left in the second quarter, when a Ricky Slade fumble at the PSU 31 was recovered by Rashad Weaver and turned into a  six play, 24 yard drive that landed the Pitt offense at the four-yard line with a 4th and 3 situation, and the score a 7-6 difference.

Narduzzi opted to go for it, using an off-tackle run play for Ollison to the right side, which was stuffed by the Penn St defense, forcing a loss of three yards and a turnover on downs.

“We go for it on 4th and 3—the kids want to go.  I want to go.  We're playing to win,” explained the coach, later acknowledging that the play was, “probably the biggest turning point of the game.”

“That was just a play where we didn't execute all around the board,” said Ollison, “you know, we asked to go for it as an offense.  We didn't get it.  That's on us.”

Ollison talked about the offensive unit's autonomy handed down by Narduzzi on the decision to go for it saying, “coach asked if we wanted to go for it or kick the field goal, and all 11 of us said we wanted to go for it.”

After the play, the Panthers' offense managed to tally just 66 yards with five first downs.

“I'll take giving up six points,” said Franklin when accessing the big stop and maintaining a consistent defensive momentum.  “We played really good, clutch defense in the second half.”

Flag on the play

A key cog to the Panthers' troubles came from the dirty laundry on the field, where Pitt accounted for 14 penalties, adding to 114 yards.

“I've never seen so many penalties in one game.  Embarrassing,” said Narduzzi.

Penn St had just four penalties in the game. 

After the spread

Penn St opened as a 10.5 point favorite and closed as a 7.5 point favorite, clearing the line with ease.

The total, which opened at 52.5 points dropped to 50.5 just before kickoff and covered on all fronts thanks to a play action pass from backup quarterback Sean Clifford and Penn St to Brandon Polk with four minutes left in the game, which made it the final score total of 57 points.

Against the Spread records

Pitt 1-1, Penn St 1-1
Pitt O/U: 1-1, Penn St O/U: 2-0.

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