Five Things We Learned: Pitt
After a 52-0 beat down of Akron in Week 1, Penn State returned to Beaver Stadium in front of an exuberant crowd of 109,898 fans to take on their longtime in-state rival Pittsburgh. The No. 4 Nittany Lions took control of the game early and never looked back as they cruised to a 33-14 victory over the Panthers.
The game was sweet revenge for the Nittany Lions, as they were defeated by the Panthers last year in Pittsburgh, 42-39. For the first time in 18 years, Pitt traveled back to Happy Valley to play in a very different environment compared to last year’s matchup and took on a very different team than last year.
There were many takeaways from Saturday’s matchup on the Nittany Lions’ side, but five stood out the most.
1. Penn State’s defense is real and dangerous. If you didn’t watch the game and did not know the final score, would you think the team whose defense was on the field for 38 minutes and gave up 342 total yards won the game? This Nittany Lion defense did just those things but instead of folding they dominated Pitt. All day, the Panthers run game was stifled and shut down. Penn State would not allow a big play down the field and when the Pitt receivers came down with the ball, a Nittany Lion defensive back was there to pop them and jar the ball loose. They also dominated in the trenches. The defensive frequently put pressure on Pitt quarterback Max Browne, sacking him five times and recording nine tackled for loss. When it looked like the defense was getting tired, they stood tall and forced punts or held Pitt to field goals. The defense was stout all day and showed they have the grit and toughness to win all game long.
2. The dual threat of McSorley and Barkley is a lethal combination. Maybe we knew this last year and going into this year, but we have been reminded of it after the first two games of 2017. The read option with McSorley and Barkley is the most dangerous play call in college football. Period. Both have such good running ability to make plays with their legs that opposing defenses can’t prepare for just one or the other. On any given read option, these men could gash the defense on any part of the field and catch them off guard.
3. This is Mike Gesicki’s year to shine. The senior tight end already has four touchdowns through two games and has shown no signs of slowing down. If there was a time when Gesicki struggled to catch the ball or make plays, those days are over. He can consistently catch anything thrown his way and is big enough to rumble through tacklers for larger gains. He should wreak havoc once Big Ten play begins.
4. The wide receivers need to be more consistent. Against Akron, the wideouts dropped passes and no receiver went over 100 yards. The only bright spot from them was Juwan Johnson, who made his first start on the outside and showed he could make catches consistently and in tight spots. On Saturday against Pitt, though, no wide receiver went over 45 yards and only one (DaeSean Hamilton) had more than one catch. The absence of Chris Godwin to the NFL may be taking its time to recover from, but once Big Ten play starts it will need to be ironed out.
5. The Penn State-Pitt rivalry lived up to the hype. Anyone downtown, at tailgates or at the game saw how electric the rivalry atmosphere was in Happy Valley. 109,000+ fans came out to support both teams and create one of the most anticipated in-state games in Pennsylvania college football history. This series has more matchups scheduled for the future and fans of both schools are saying one thing: The more, the merrier!
Matthew Harvey is a senior majoring in broadcast journalism and history. To contact him, email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Junior / Broadcast Journalism and History