Pittsburgh Panthers

Penn State's balanced attack wallops Pitt in Progressive Legends Classic

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Penn State's balanced attack wallops Pitt in Progressive Legends Classic

BOX SCORE

NEW YORK -- Pat Chambers' message to his team could have been distilled to two words: Just. Play.

"I go back to the term `mental conditioning,'" Chambers said after Penn State's 85-54- rout of Pittsburgh Monday night in the second game of the Progressive Legends Classic."

"We have to win the next possession and the next possession. Don't even look at the score. I'm trying to teach them how to be an elite team," Chambers said. "Big 10 teams that are elite take care of business and I felt we did that in the second half."

Tony Carr scored 16 points to lead six Nittany Lions in double figure scoring. Mike Watkins and Shep Garner had 13 apiece, while Lamar Stevens, Josh Reaves and Nazeer Bostick each scored 10 for Penn State (5-0).

"I'm proud of my team. We were dialed in and focused," Chambers said.

While there was precious little for Chambers to criticize, Pitt (1-3) coach Kevin Stallings was stunned at what had transpired.

"It was a little bit shocking to me," Stallings said. "I didn't have our guys ready to play like I thought I did."

Jared Wilson-Frame led the Panthers with 17 points.

Despite the lopsided nature of the game, it was neither the biggest win in Penn State history nor was it the worst loss ever for Pittsburgh. The Nittany Lions' largest margin of victory was 74, in an 86-12 win over Susquehanna on Jan. 25, 1919, while Pittsburgh dropped a program-worst 106-13 decision to Westminster on Feb. 24, 1906.

Penn State's largest margin of victory against Pittsburgh was 84-44 on Jan. 14, 1967.

"We got punched right at the start of the game and we just didn't respond," Stallings said. "They just got into such a rhythm at the beginning of the game offensively that they played (in) a complete comfort zone and we never did anything to take them out of there."

Garner's opened the game with a 3-point jumper and Nittany Lions never trailed. Carr knocked down a straightaway 3 to make it 47-21 at the break. Bostick threw down a breakaway one-handed jam and Garner drilled another 3 to push the lead to 63-29.

"Our approach was: Win every possession. Every possession matters," Chambers said.

Big picture
Penn State: It may be a fun winter in Happy Valley, and not just because of the nationally ranked football team. Penn State has returned 80.8 percent of its scoring, 87.8 percent of its rebounding and 81.8 percent of its assists from last season.

Pitt: By comparison, it is likely a good thing Pittsburgh has the Stanley Cup Champion Penguins and the possible Super Bowl contender Steelers, because it may be a long season for Panthers fans. Pitt's roster has players who combined for three starts and 648 minutes in 2016-17.

Notable
Penn State: Penn State improved to 76-72 all-time against Pitt. The Nittany Lions snapped a seven-game losing streak to their in-state rivals.

Pitt: Jared Wilson-Frame's 17 points marked the third straight game he finished in double figure scoring.

In attendance: Stephen Curry arrived midway through the second half of the game. The Golden State Warriors star saw Penn State outscore Pittsburgh, 31-25.

Up next
Penn State: Will play No. 16 Texas A&M in the championship game on Tuesday.

Pitt: Will play Oklahoma State in the consolation game on Tuesday.

For No. 4 Penn State, beating Pittsburgh ends up 'just like beating Akron'

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For No. 4 Penn State, beating Pittsburgh ends up 'just like beating Akron'

BOX SCORE

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. – They put up 33 points against a team that might or might not be a rival (more on that in a moment), and won by 19.

And, well, that wasn’t quite enough. Not to them.

“One of the weird things about today, when we got in the locker room, we felt as an offense we didn’t play our best football — that we had chances to put more points on the board,” Penn State quarterback Trace McSorley said after the fourth-ranked Lions beat Pitt 33-14 on Saturday afternoon (see Observations).

There were missed opportunities, momentary struggles, long stretches when McSorley and Co. were marooned on the sidelines while the Panthers controlled the ball. At the same time, the Lions (2-0) had two one-play touchdown drives, and none of their five scoring marches lasted longer than 2:43.

“It was not like a dejected feeling,” McSorley said of the postgame mood, “because we got the win. It was one of those where, like, it didn’t feel like one where we put 33 points on the board. It’s something you like to see, almost, because you put 33 points on the board, guys are whining and down on themselves because we expected more. That’s something that I think is kind of a silver lining for us, that we can keep pushing toward that.”

McSorley finished his day 15 for 28 for 164 and three touchdowns, with one interception. He improved as he went along (9 for 13, 120 yards in the second half), which perhaps stands to reason, given that he was still pondering last year’s meeting when he took the field – one that ended with Pitt hanging on for a 42-39 victory, when he was intercepted in the end zone with 1:15 left.

“That was something, when I think of last year’s game, that stands out a lot,” he said.

As for the larger debate — the rivalry-or-not-a-rivalry discussion that has been beaten to death — coach James Franklin rekindled it during his postgame remarks by saying, “I know last year for their win it was like the Super Bowl, but for us this was just like beating Akron (by a 52-0 count in the opener).”

That dropped a few jaws in the media roo and led to the inevitable follow-up question about how such a statement might play in Pittsburgh.

“I’ve been saying for two years that each win is like the Super Bowl for us,” he said. “You can interpret it however you want. Last week, we beat Akron and it was a great win. This week, we beat Pittsburgh and it was a great win. This win is no more significant than last week.”

Then there was the take of safety Marcus Allen, who contributed a game-high 12 tackles and a safety to Saturday’s effort.

“It’s one game at time,” he said. “We approached this game like every other game, but no one’s naïve. Guys had, like, grudges, a chip on their shoulder, coming into this game.”

The crowd of 109,898, the seventh-largest in Beaver Stadium history and the largest since 2009, was in full froth as well. McSorley had a look around as he emerged from the south tunnel beforehand, something he said he always does.

“Today it was one of those you walked out (and said), ‘Man there’s a lot of people here,’ ” he said.

He threw the first of two touchdown passes to tight end Mike Gesicki after Grant Haley’s interception four plays into the game, then found Gesicki for a 10-yard TD on the Lions’ third possession. But McSorley was just 6 for 15 for 44 yards and a pick in the first half, and as Franklin said, missing “some throws … that he normally doesn’t.”

McSorley admitted to being “just a little bit jittery” — that his feet weren’t settled, that he had a hard time finding his groove.

“I think just kind of the emotions of everything coming into today got the best of me at the beginning,” he said.

Then there was the matter of Pitt’s ball-hoggery. The Panthers’ first-half advantage in time of possession was 21:51-8:09, but they nonetheless trailed, 14-3 — something that called to mind a game PSU’s great 1994 team played against Northwestern.

That day the first-half time advantage belonged to the Wildcats, 24:21-5:39. The score? Penn State 38, Northwestern 3. The final was 45-17, and someone was left to marvel afterward about a Lions team that seemingly didn’t even need the ball to score.

It kind of seemed that way Saturday, too. Penn State added to its lead courtesy of McSorley’s 46-yard TD pass to Saquon Barkley early in the third quarter — a play on which Barkley found himself singled up against linebacker Saleem Brightwell – and scored again when Barkley plowed eight yards into the end zone on the first play of the fourth quarter.

That made it 28-6. The Panthers crept within 1 but could get no closer.

Barkley was solid — 14 carries for 88 yards, four catches for 45 — but the Lions were outgained 342-312 and out-possessed, 38:20-21:40.

The latter stat, Franklin said, is “not as big of a factor as it’s been in the past, but for us we are mainly worried about the scoreboard.”

And in that regard, Saturday was a rousing success. But these guys want more. Always more.

No. 4 Penn State-Pittsburgh observations: Nittany Lions avenge last season's loss

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No. 4 Penn State-Pittsburgh observations: Nittany Lions avenge last season's loss

BOX SCORE

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. – Trace McSorley threw three touchdown passes as No. 4 Penn State beat Pitt 33-14 on Saturday afternoon at Beaver Stadium.

McSorley overcame a slow start to go 15 for 28 for 164 yards, as PSU improved to 2-0. He also threw an interception.

The first two of his scoring strikes went to tight end Mike Gesicki, who has four TD receptions this season. The other went to Saquon Barkley, who caught four passes for 45 yards in all. He also rushed 14 times for 88 yards and a touchdown.

Backup quarterback Ben DiNucci scored Pitt’s touchdown on a three-yard run with 10:09 left in the game. Alex Kessman added a pair of field goals for the Panthers (1-1).

• McSorley had a rough first half against a Pitt secondary that finished next-to-last in the FBS in passing yardage allowed last year (333.2) and yielded 311 yards through the air in an overtime victory over Youngstown State in its season opener. The Panthers also continue to be without suspended safety Jordan Whitehead. Didn’t matter in the early going. McSorley, often under pressure, was wild high most of the half, going 6 for 15 for 44 yards, and saw his last-second Hail Mary picked by Dane Jackson.

• McSorley went 9 for 13 for 120 yards in the second half, including his 46-yard scoring pass to Barkley in the third quarter. On that play McSorley found his running back single-covered by Saleem Brightwell down the middle. Barkley collected the pass and ran untouched to the end zone.

• Barkley, renowned for his work in the weight room, powered through tacklers while scoring from eight yards out on the first play of the fourth quarter.

• Lions coach James Franklin had identified Panthers’ wide receiver Quadree Henderson as a potential “game-wrecker” in the days leading up to the game, but PSU bottled him up. Henderson, who generated 201 all-purpose yards in Pitt’s 42-39 victory last year, managed 33. He was notably tackled by Nick Scott and Garrett Taylor for losses of seven and six yards on respective first-half punt returns.

• Max Browne had somehow emerged as USC’s starting quarterback to start the 2016 season, only to lose the job to redshirt freshman Sam Darnold before the fourth game — the same Sam Darnold who torched Penn State in the Rose Bowl, and is now regarded as a Heisman candidate. Browne followed the graduate-transfer route to Pitt but, in his second start, threw two first-half interceptions. The first, an overthrow gathered in by PSU cornerback Grant Haley, came four plays into the game and led to the first of McSorley’s TD passes to Gesicki, an eight-yarder.

• The Panthers rushed for 50 of their 70 first-half yards on their last possession before halftime, a 15-play, 77-yard march culminating in Alex Kessman’s 28-yard field goal. Pitt ran 46 plays to PSU’s 24 in the first half, and controlled the ball for 21:51 to Penn State’s 8:09, but trailed 14-3 at the break.

• Pitt made good use of the shovel pass all game long, but particularly on its nine-play, 75-yard TD drive in the fourth quarter. Qadree Ollison took one 30 yards, and Browne found tight end Matt Flanagan for eight on another.

• DiNucci entered the game on third-and-goal at the 3, after Browne lost his helmet on the previous play and by rule had to depart for one play. DiNucci skirted left end to score, then threw yet another shovel pass to Ollison for the two-point conversion, cutting Penn State’s lead to 28-14.

• Besides his early interception, Haley had his first career sack to end Pitt’s second possession. He also combined with defensive end Shareef Miller and safety Nick Scott to stop Henderson for a three-yard loss on a second-and-goal snap in the third quarter. Pitt wound up settling for Kessman’s second field goal.

• Safety Marcus Allen recorded a safety with 5:53 left in the game, beating the block of Jaryd Jones-Smith to tackle running back Darrin Hall in the end zone, after he gathered in a pass from Browne.