Five Things We Learned: Pittsburgh
No. 13 Penn State (3-0) slugged out a win in their 100th and maybe last meeting with the Pittsburgh Panthers (1-2) 17-10 on a rainy Saturday afternoon at Beaver Stadium. The Nittany Lions finished their nonconference schedule undefeated for the third consecutive season and now get ready for Big Ten Conference play.
Here are five things we learned from Saturday’s game:
Penn State needs to sort out the running back situation
The running game made a little bit of a return on Saturday with 167 yards, 109 from Journey Brown. James Franklin wants to play all four running backs, but going forward Penn State has to ride the hot hands as the running game continues to go stagnant at some points. Prime example would be Noah Cain getting all 40 of his yards and a touchdown on one drive and then not seeing him once the rest of the game. The substitution patterns have been very odd this season, so maybe there isn’t room for all four backs to play.
Sean Clifford is good, but he’s not there yet
We’ve seen first year starter Sean Clifford have mostly good, but some shaky, moments the first two weeks. Saturday there were plenty of shaky moments for the redshirt sophomore. The deep ball accuracy was not there as Clifford was overthrowing receivers, and a pass interference penalty wiped out what would have been his first career interception when the Nittany Lions were driving. The receivers were even making some nice catches on inaccurate shorter throws. It’s only been three games so it’s not really that much to worry about, Clifford should get better.
The defense needs to do better getting off the field
If it seemed like Penn State’s defense was on the field forever on Saturday, they were. Pittsburgh was 5/16 on third down and 3/3 on fourth down. The run defense was great only allowing 24 yards, but Kenny Pickett had 372 passing yards. It seemed like most of those yards came on short crossing routes with many of those yards after the catch. They only gave up 10 points, but they need to do a better job getting off the field especially in third and long situations as the secondary has had open holes this season.
Jordan Stout may be the transfer of the year
The Nittany Lions disastrous special teams play in 2018 was well documented. In 2019, however, it has been a bright spot thanks to Virginia Tech transfer Jordan Stout. Stout kicked a 57-yard field goal right before halftime, which set a school record and gave the Nitany Lions a jolt of energy right before the half. The field goal was his second of 50-plus yards this season. Stout has also completely eliminated the opposing teams return game as every one of his kickoffs has gone for touchbacks. He has become a weapon that the Nittany Lions have not had in a while.
Micah Parsons is a special player
The five star recruit out of Harrisburg was Penn State’s leader in tackles as a true freshman and didn’t even start one game. This season he is getting his chance to start and is one of the leaders of this defense. Parsons had nine tackles, two tackles for loss and a pass breakup against the Panthers. He was also disrupting Pitt’s run game from his linebacker spot all day. The Nittany Lions could have the next great linebacker to come out of Linebacker U in Micah Parsons.
Penn State now heads to their bye week before opening up Big Ten play at Maryland on Friday Sept. 27.
Kevin McConlogue is a senior majoring in broadcast journalism and a minor in political science. To contact him email email@example.com.