Game Grades: Pittsburgh
Penn State (3-0) faced their first taste of adversity this season against Pitt. Heading into the second half tied 10-10, a late stand preserved the win over the Pittsburgh (1-2) 17-10 on Saturday at Beaver Stadium. Here are the game grades from the Nittany Lions performance:
Sean Clifford was able to finish 14-of-30 for 222 yards without creating any turnovers and being under distress the majority of the game. The offensive line failed to adapt to Pittsburgh's package of the blitz, pressure from the outside, and a four-man rush thus leading to Clifford scrambling and taking heavy hits after delivering the ball.
As a unit, the wide receivers were not noticeable, and Clifford did overthrow a few passes. However, contributions from Journey Brown, Noah Cain and Devin Ford in the running game soared the Nittany Lions to a win. Journey Brown had an explosive 85-yard run and touchdowns from freshman Noah Cain and Devin Ford highlighted the offense. Look for the passing game to be more noticeable after the bye week versus Maryland at College Park.
The defensive unit played to their strengths by using their speed to create clean tackles. Brent Pry's unit limited Pittsburgh's running game to 24 rushing yards on 25 attempts. Although Pittsburgh quarterback Kenny Pickett was able to exploit the secondary by finishing 35-of-51 for 372 yards. Yet the secondary never gave up any touchdowns through the air.
The defense stood up in critical moments of the game during the late goal-line stand and the end of the game hail mary as Pittsburgh tried to tie the game. Micah Parsons and Cam Brown set the tone for the defense. Parsons led the team with nine tackles (seven solos), two tackles for loss, a pass defended, and one hit on Kenny Pickett. Cam Brown was just as noticeable tallying seven tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, a pass breakup, one sack, and two hits on Kenny Pickett.
Special Teams: A
The Nittany Lions have some deadly weapons on the special teams. Jordan Stout continues to be one of the best kickers in college football. The Virginia Tech transfer blasted four kickoffs, leading to touchbacks that limited Pittsburgh's star kick returner Maurice French. Stout, also, nailed a 57-yard field goal right before halftime, taking the Nittany Lions into the half tied 10-10. Stout's 57- yard field goal became the longest field converted in Nittany Lions history.
Blake Gilken contributed hugely in a game where field position was significant. Gilken grounded six of seven punts inside the 20-yard line. Lastly, Jonathan Sutherland guided the coverage teams with his physicality.
Overall, the coaching staff needs to revisit the drawing board during the bye week. Specifically, offensive coordinator Ricky Rahine and offensive line coach Matt Limegrover. The Nittany Lions were 0-for- 3 on third down attempts of nine yards or more and 1-for-3 on attempts of four yards or less.
On the offensive line side, Clifford being under distress and hit too hard constitutionally is a major concern. On the defensive side, Pittsburgh was able to convert on all of their four fourth-down attempts and 4-of- 9 third down plays of nine yards or longer. Overall the coaching staff just needs to make a few changes during this bye as they prepare to take on the Maryland Terrapins on Sept. 27.
Jordan Hession is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.