PSU Drops Thriller Against Pitt

Story posted September 10, 2016 in Sports, CommRadio by Joe Esquivel-Murphy

UNIVERSITY PARK – The renewal of the Penn State-Pittsburgh rivalry entered with lots of hype from both sides. The game lived up to the hype as the Panthers were able to fend off the Nittany Lions, winning 42-39.

Pitt started the game strong, scoring on their opening drive that covered 99 yards, with most of those yards coming on the ground. The next offensive play for Penn State was disastrous as quarterback Trace McSorley fumbled the ball, which was recovered by Pitt.

The Panthers would score a few plays later, extending the lead to 14 with a little over seven minutes remaining in the first quarter. Pitt played extremely aggressive in the first half, forcing two McSorley fumbles. Penn State head coach James Franklin said the early mistakes made it hard for his team to compete.

“If you lose the turnover battle, you turn the ball over in your area of the field you’re going to have a hard time winning consistently,” Franklin said.

Pitt had a 28-7 lead with 11:54 remaining in the first half after fullback George Aston scored his second touchdown of the half. At that point in the game, it looked like Pitt was going to blow out the Nittany Lions as they struggled to move the ball.

Penn State’s comeback effort was led by Saquon Barkley and Trace McSorley. Barkley had a game for the ages, scoring five touchdowns, the most amount of points by a Penn State player since Ki-Jana Carter back in 1994.

Barkley’s four rushing touchdowns were all within three yards, proving that he can be the short yardage specialist that Penn State needs in the future. His 73 yards might not jump off the page, but the Pitt defensive line were constantly in the backfield, making it impossible for Barkley to even make the line of scrimmage.

McSorley threw for 332 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Even though his interception with 75 seconds left sealed the victory for Pittsburgh, McSorley’s poise and precision helped bring Penn State back into the game. Coach Franklin said he liked the passion McSorley played with, but could improve a few things.

“He really, really has heart,” Franklin said. “I thought he played well at times, but we have to get the ball off the ground. Step up in the pocket and take a sack, but we can’t fumble the ball.”

DaeSean Hamilton and DeAndre Thompkins led the receiving corps as both players topped 80 receiving yards for the game. Thompkins had 3 catches for 87 yards, proving his worth as a deep threat for the Nittany Lions.

Hamilton led the Lions with eight receptions, but dropped a deep ball from McSorley that would have given the Nittany Lions the lead with just minutes remaining. Despite the dropped ball, Hamilton was consistently getting open and creating separation from the Pitt defensive backs.

The Penn State defense did not have the same success as the offense, as Pitt was able to run for over 300 yards. While most of those yards came in the first half, the Pitt offensive line created numerous holes for running back James Conner to run through.

Conner ran for 117 yards and a touchdown, using his size and strength to pick up the extra yards. The Pitt run game worked so well that quarterback Nathan Peterman only attempted 15 passes with three of them going for touchdowns.

Special teams was also crucial to Penn State’s comeback effort. Cornerback John Reid sparked the team with his 59-yard punt return to the Pitt 15 that set up Barkley’s first touchdown. Pitt kicker Chris Blewitt missed a 50-yard field goal, which set up another Penn State score.

Penn State will look to return to its winning ways as the Nittany Lions take on Temple next Saturday at noon, while the Panthers travel to Stillwater to take on Oklahoma State.

 

Joseph Esquivel-Murphy is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism and Spanish. To contact him, email jje5139@psu.edu