Penn State Dominates Kent State for Third Straight Win
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State’s first road game of the year last week against Pitt was a tale of two halves; the Nittany Lions struggled early on, but dominated the second half.
The script of this afternoon’s game against Kent State paralleled last week’s blowout victory in many ways, as the Nittany Lions had a slow start, but ran away with it once they settled into the game and won in convincing fashion by a score of 63-10
“We won. We found a way to win,” Penn State head coach James Franklin said. “We found a way to get a win against a good opponent here at home.”
The first play from scrimmage was a perfect indication for what the rest of the game would hold, as senior quarterback Trace McSorley connected with junior running back junior running back Miles Sanders for a gain of 19 yards.
This play was followed by a deep touchdown pass from McSorley to sophomore wide receiver KJ Hamler, but it was later called back on a Penn State holding penalty. This was just the beginning of a very lackluster effort when it came to costly penalties.
“On the offensive side of the ball, we had three penalties that took away three touchdown passes,” Franklin said. “So we took 20 of our points off of the board.”
The penalty struggles were across the board this afternoon, however, as the Nittany Lions capitalized on a Golden Flashes’ roughing the kicker call when McSorley connected with senior wide receiver DeAndre Thompkins just a few plays later on a 40-yard touchdown pass that give his team an early 7-0 lead.
The Golden Flashes responded in resilient fashion in front of a hectic Beaver Stadium crowd of 106,528, putting together a slow, yet successful drive that was eventually capped off by a Mike Carrigan 47-yard touchdown reception from sophomore quarterback Woody Barrett.
In what was a very gutsy call by the youngest Division I head coach in college football, Kent State’s Sean Wilson, the Golden Flashers executed an onside kick to perfection with sophomore kicker Colt McFadden recovering the ball to swing the momentum in his team’s direction.
The Nittany Lions controlled the damage in the following drive, forcing a three and out. They translated this stop into into rushing touchdowns from McSorley over the next two drives, the latter making him the all-time leader in rushing touchdowns as a Penn State quarterback with 23.
“Right now I think we’re at a really good spot,” McSorley said. “There’s a lot for us to improve, but for us to have gone through these first couple weeks and learn was a big thing for us.”
The scoring remained quiet until the end of the second quarter, when freshman cornerback Elvin Hines picked off McSorley on a deflected pass and ran it back 26 yards to the Penn State 7 yard line.
The defense held Kent State to only a field goal to cut the deficit to 21-10 with 35 second left in the half. A 52-yard kickoff return from sophomore wide receiver KJ Hamler set the stage for McSorley’s third rushing touchdown of the day, which was a 13-yard run with only four second left on the clock.
“Everytime I touch the ball I think touchdown,” Hamler said. “That’s how I was raised, that’s how I was always built my whole life, so it doesn't matter if it’s a kick return or a punt return, if I get in the end zone, it’s cool.”
The second half was a one-sided affair, with the Nittany Lions outscored the Golden Flashers 35-0.
Senior defensive end Shareef Miller, who recorded two sacks against the Golden Flashers two years ago, did the same this afternoon, with his first coming in the opening drive of the second half. The sack pinned the Golden Flashers deep in their own territory, and led to the Nittany Lions setting up shop at their own 43 following a 50-yard punt from freshman punter Matthew Trickett the following play.
Senior running back Mark Allen finished the effort by running seven yards for a touchdown, with his counterpart in freshman running back Ricky Slade recording a 3-yard touchdown in the next drive just three minutes later.
The Nittany Lions closed out the third quarter with a 41-yard touchdown pass to senior wide receiver Brandon Polk.
Sophomore quarterback Sean Clifford took the torch in the fourth quarter, and started his day with a Penn State record 95-yard touchdown pass to freshman wide receiver Daniel George to extend the lead to 56-10 with just under seven minutes left.
Senior running back Johnathan Thomas also jumped in on the action when entering the game in the fourth, as he notched a 63-yard run in his first carry and followed with a 15-yard touchdown run the next play.
McSorley finished the day the day 11-22 passing and accounted for five touchdowns on the day, two of which came in the air.
“You watch that guy, and his body language and demeanor doesn't change,” Franklin said. “If you’re a young quarterback out there, watch Trace McSorley. The guy has been winning since he was in diapers. That’s all he does is win.”
Junior running back Miles Sanders flew under the radar, but was a key contributor throughout this contest. The Pittsburgh native totaled 84 yards on the day over 14 carries.
Sanders credited his success, and all the other running back’s success tonight, to the versatility of this Nittany Lions’ offensive attack.
“It just opens up the whole defense,” Sanders said. “It just weakens the defense. There’s less players in the box so you have to respect our pass game too, not only our run game.
One of the big difference makers for the Nittany Lions was the special teams play, specifically the efforts from Thompkins and Hamler.
“They’re guys (Hopkins and Hamler) that obviously, when they get their hand on the ball, everyone in the stadium is excited to see what they’re going to do,” Franklin said. “We as coaches are, and the special teams coordinators get grey hair on the opposite sideline. That’s the reality of it.”
The approach doesn't change for Franklin or his coaching staff coming off this convincing win, it’s business as usual in Happy Valley.
“I coach them harder after wins because I think in a lot of ways, emotionally, they’re more prepared for that, they’re going to handle that.” Franklin said. “After the losses, you don’t want to beat them up too much. So it’ how you balance all of those things.”
The Nittany Lions will travel to Illinois for their only Friday night game of the year during this upcoming week. Kickoff is set for 9 p.m. in Champaign, Illinois in Memorial Stadium.
Cooper Deck is a senior majoing in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the Contributors
Sophomore / Broadcast Journalism
Cooper is currently a sophomore majoring in broadcasting with a double minor in
spanish and history. In addition to working on the management team for
CommRadio as an Editor, he also works at the Daily Collegian as a women’s
basketball reporter. When he is not editing stories for CommRadio, he hosts his
show, “On Deck,” where he discusses trending sports topics of the
week. Cooper has an internship as a play by play and color commentator for C-NET Centre County where he commentates State College High School football and basketball games. Cooper served as a part-time color commentator over the summer for the Utica Blue Sox, a summer collegiate
baseball team in the Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League which consistently ranks in the top-five summer collegiate baseball leagues in the country. He is also one of three student representatives on the Bellisario College of Communications Alumni board. Lastly, he is currently