Five Things We Learned: Kent State
College football is officially back in Happy Valley, as Penn State and Kent State opened their respective seasons this Saturday. The Nittany Lions were able to overcome a slow start, shutting out Kent State in the second half and coming out with a 33-13 victory. Penn State’s offense had a hard time getting a started, and the defense had a hard time stopping a quick running-dominated Kent State offense. Trace McSorely made his debut as Penn State’s top quarterback for the 2016-17 season, throwing for 209 yards and two touchdowns. Even topping the Golden Flashes by 20 points and three-touchdowns, fans are still wondering about lost scoring opportunities and missed tackles. However, the Lions did make big plays when it counted. Here is what Penn State faithful can take away from their first win at Beaver Stadium:
1. Trace McSorley did what was expected, but is he too tough for his own health? Trace McSorley’s debut as Penn State’s starting quarterback was no doubt solid. The dual-threat quarterback threw for 209 yards and two touchdowns, running 14 times for 47 hard-hitting yards. McSorley is a dual-threat for sure, and is never afraid to run into a couple of bigger guys. However, Franklin isn’t as worried about running his 205-pound quarterback. He wants to see how the strategy pans out against bigger and faster defenses. As a fan, it’s exciting to see a change in Penn State’s offense and in the dual threat of Trace McSorley. But, we also hope his audacity won’t get him killed against the bigger defenders. If we were to lose our starting quarterback, Penn State’s offense would have an even longer way to go. Right now, there are definitely places where experience is an issue for McSorley and his aggressive play is worrisome, but we can’t argue. McSorley played a nervy game and did it in a way where you couldn’t believe it was a rookie quarterback on the field.
2. Silver Linings and big plays for Penn State’s defense were key for the victory. Penn State’s defense lost three veterans for to the NFL draft, and certainly looked like it. However, there were a few notable plays and a few notable guys that look to be a silver lining for this defense. Defensive coordinator Brent Pry preached all preseason that he had anticipated game changing, big plays with a lot of forced turnovers. Forced turnovers were as effective in this game as he anticipated, along with an effective pass rush late in the game to produce seven sacks. That is undeniably a silver lining, even if it is against a team like Kent State. This is a unit trying to rebuild on the fly and trying to rebuild with the loss of a veteran defensive line. Corner Amani Oruwariye had an early third-quarter interception that set the tone for the rest of the half and gave Penn State the breathing room they needed. Redshirt freshman defensive end Shareef Miller had 1.5 sacks and showed speed to frustrate the Kent State offensive line. Garrett Sickles, who is now considered the veteran defenseman, had six stops and 1.5 of them being tackles for loss. However, the Lions must correct some tackling issues and tighten up their line, which the Golden Flasher’s broke through too easily for most of the first half.
3. Penn State’s special teams struggles are in the past. True Freshman punter Blake Gilikin has a strong leg, which was apparent right from the start. Gilikin averaged 47 yards on six punt attempts and had a long of 58 yards. In addition, Tyler Davis went 2-2 on field goal attempts and Joey Julius recorded six touchbacks on kickoffs. Julius, who is listed at 258 pounds also obliterated a Kent State returner on a kickoff, giving the team and fans the hype they needed. It is clear that Penn State’s special teams have improved from last season and it is going to be a huge factor in games against tougher opponents.
4. Penn State’s O-line is still a concern. Penn State’s offensive line unit has to pick up their game, especially with Pittsburgh next weekend. For most of the first half, Penn State allowed the Golden Flashers to stay in the game, which was in part because of the offensive line struggles. The Nittany Lions only allowed one sack, but directly after led to a Kent State touchdown. If the offensive line can tighten up, the Lions will have an easier time capitalizing on offensive opportunities, which are key for this team.
5. Penn State will have a better and more exciting season than last year. This team will be different than the first two under James Franklin. The Lions, I think, will have more wins under their belt this season and will undoubtedly be fun to watch. Having a new quarterback in Trace McSorley will bring added excitement, but also an offense that will be more able to move the ball. With new offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead, there will be less of the same plays we saw in 2015 like the dreadful screen passes. The lions will have a new faster style of play that will keep the defense on their toes, but will also give the fans more excitement. The defense could pose a problem, but it is still likely this team will get a minimum of eight wins this season. That’s if Penn State wins against Pittsburgh next week.
Alissa Devine is a Junior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact her, email firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on twitter: @DevineAlissa
About the Contributors
Sophomore / Broadcast Journalism
Alissa Devine is a senior from Fairfield, New Jersey, majoring in broadcast journalism with a minor is business liberal arts. She is involved with play by play and beat writing for several Penn State sports, especially hockey. She is also a member of the talk show, The Sin Bin for Com Radio. Alissa’s love for sports and hockey has driven her to pursue a career in sports broadcasting.