No. 14 Penn State-Rutgers observations: Nittany Lions snap 2-game losing streak

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No. 14 Penn State-Rutgers observations: Nittany Lions snap 2-game losing streak

BOX SCORE

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — Trace McSorley passed for two touchdowns and ran for another as No. 14 Penn State drubbed Rutgers, 35-6, Saturday afternoon.

With the Scarlet Knights focusing their defensive attention on running back Saquon Barkley, McSorley hit 16 of 21 passes for 214 yards, and ran 13 times for 44 yards, as the Nittany Lions (8-2, 5-2 Big Ten) snapped a two-game losing streak.

His TD passes covered 22 yards to DaeSean Hamilton in the second quarter and 16 yards to Mike Gesicki in the fourth. His scoring run was a 20-yarder.

Barkley, who managed a season-low 35 yards on 14 carries, did run for two short TDs in the third quarter.

Andrew Harte kicked two field goals for Rutgers (4-6, 3-4), which lost its 11th straight to the Nittany Lions.

• Rutgers entered the game with the Big Ten’s second-worst rushing defense, allowing 179.6 yards a game. The Knights nonetheless bottled up Barkley — especially in the first half, when he managed minus-3 yards on five attempts.

• PSU trailed 3-0 after a quarter, but McSorley keyed second-quarter touchdown drives of 65 and 74 yards. He capped the first with his TD run and the second with the scoring strike to Hamilton.

• Barkley’s two scoring runs, covering one and four yards, came in the third quarter that saw the Lions outgain the Knights 88-9 while extending their lead to 28-6. His first TD run came two snaps after a gadget play. On 3rd-and-9 from the Rutgers 15, McSorley hit Hamilton with a short pass, and he pitched to Barkley, who hurdled a tackler while advancing to the 1. 

• Scarlet Knights kicker Justin Davidovicz hit the opening kickoff short and high, and when no one on Penn State’s return team handled the ball it was recovered by RU’s Lawrence Stevens at the 21. Four plays later Andrew Harte hit a 33-yard field goal, giving the Knights their first lead over Penn State since 2014.

• Knights quarterback Gio Rescigno created problems with his legs, notably on a 15-play, 57-yard field goal march in the second quarter. Rescigno converted a 4th-and-1 from the Rutgers 44 with a three-yard sneak, and later scurried about the pocket before completing a 12-yard pass to Mohamed Jabbie on 3rd-and-9. Harte later kicked a 25-yard field goal.

• The game was marked by numerous special-teams misadventures. Penn State’s Tyler Davis knocked two kickoffs out of bounds, and Davidovicz did so once, setting up a PSU touchdown drive. RU’s Janarion Grant also fumbled the second-half kickoff — on a hit by Davis, no less — but the Lions were unable to capitalize. Finally, PSU cornerback Christian Campbell recovered an onside kick in the third quarter but was offsides.

Penn State overcomes slow start, dominates Pittsburgh

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Penn State overcomes slow start, dominates Pittsburgh

PITTSBURGH -- Trace McSorley threw for two touchdowns and ran for another as No. 13 Penn State pulled away for a 51-6 victory over sloppy Pittsburgh on Saturday night.

KJ Hamler ran 32 yards for a score and hauled in a 14-yard touchdown pass from McSorley as the Nittany Lions (2-0) bounced back from an opening week scare against Appalachian State to dominate their 99th meeting with the Panthers (1-1).

McSorley finished 14 of 30 for 145 yards in the rain at soggy Heinz Field, giving him a measure of redemption. Two years ago, Pitt edged the Nittany Lions at home, a loss that ultimately cost Penn State a spot in the College Football Playoff.

The memory stuck with McSorley, who had a far different feeling this time around.

"I think it's something, it might have fueled me a little bit more knowing we were returning here and had an opportunity to get that bad taste out of our mouths and things like that," McSorley said. "It's a lot sweeter, able to leave the field with a good victory tonight."

Miles Sanders ran for 118 yards for the Nittany Lions, DeAndre Thompson returned a punt 39 yards for a touchdown and Penn State limited Pitt to just 89 yards in the second half.

"We played really clutch defense," Nittany Lions coach James Franklin said. "So I think we made some really good strides."

There are no plans for the rivalry to continue beyond next year's game at Beaver Stadium.

Considering how things went in the second half that might not be a bad thing for either side. Penn State's margin of victory was the third-largest by either team in a series that dates to 1893. The chants of "We Are ... Penn State" rang throughout the stadium in the final minutes.

Pitt senior Qadree Ollison ran for 119 yards and a 13-yard score for Pitt, but went nowhere after halftime. Neither did the Panthers. Sophomore quarterback Kenny Pickett struggled in the steady rain, completing just 9 of 18 passes for 55 yards. Pickett also ran for 30 yards, but spent most of the night under heavy pressure. He was sacked four times and took a handful of jarring hits when he was able to scramble for positive yardage.

"Ultimately, everything lays right on my chest," Panther coach Pat Narduzzi said. "I'll take it all. We obviously didn't have them ready to go in any capacity: offensively, defensively or special teams."

The blowout finish seemed unlikely late in the first half. Penn State led just 7-6 with a minute to go before Pitt began self-destructing. Punter Kirk Christodoulou dropped a snap and the Nittany Lions took over in Pitt territory. McSorley needed just three plays to find Hamler to put the Nittany Lions up 14-6 at the break.

It was all Penn State after that. McSorley scored on a 4-yard touchdown run early in the third quarter, a Pitt penalty in the end zone resulted in a safety minutes later, and when Thompson took a punt at the 39 and veered to his left to race untouched to the end zone, the Nittany Lions were firmly in control.

Pitt did plenty to help Penn State pull away. The Panthers were flagged 14 times for 116 yards -- including an unsportsmanlike call on Narduzzi -- turned it over three times and provided no response when the Nittany Lions got serious.

"I've never seen so many penalties in one game," Narduzzi said. "It starts with my 15 yarder. But 14 penalties . embarrassing. There were some good calls, too. I'm not saying the officiating was bad. We just had some stuff that just snowballed on us. It starts with me."

No. 10 Penn State avoids upset with OT win over Appalachian State

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No. 10 Penn State avoids upset with OT win over Appalachian State

BOX SCORE

STATE COLLEGE, Pa.  — After squandering a 14-point, fourth-quarter lead to a program with a history of being a giant killer, things grew tense in Happy Valley.

Not for Penn State quarterback Trace McSorley.

The Heisman Trophy hopeful led a game-tying drive with less than a minute to go to force overtime and No. 10 Penn State rebounded to hold off Appalachian State 45-38 exactly 11 years after the Mountaineers stunned Michigan in one of the biggest upsets in college football history.

With two defenders in his face, McSorley, who was 21-for-36 passing for 230 yards and two rushing touchdowns, fired off his back foot to KJ Hamler for the 15-yard score with 42 seconds left. Penn State's defense held on to send the game to overtime where Miles Sanders scored the go-ahead touchdown for the Nittany Lions (1-0) and cornerback Amani Oruwariye intercepted a Zac Thomas pass in the end zone to seal the win.

"I don't know what's in the water in Boone, North Carolina, but it seems like they've been doing this for a long time against whoever they play," Penn State coach James Franklin said. "I started the game at 46 years old. I ended it at 51."

McSorley went on the field with 1:47 left and his team trailing 38-31 after watching the Mountaineers score on three straight possessions over 5:53 in the fourth quarter. Any stress?

"Not really," McSorley said. "I think it's just because I love playing football and I think that's the best thing about our team. Everyone loves playing football. There's no one out there who's nervous."

Sanders, who played well in Saquon Barkley's shadow the last two seasons, looked calm taking over primary rushing duties. He ran 19 times for 91 yards with two touchdowns, but it took a Jake Pinegar field goal to let Penn State head into halftime in a 10-10 tie.

In fact, the Mountaineers controlled much of the game before that and rebounded after surrendering two scoring drives to open the third. Thomas, who was briefly knocked out of the game after being sandwiched violently between defenders early in the fourth, led the way in front of more than 105,000 people, Penn State's largest home-opening crowd in a decade.

Making his first career start, Thomas completed 25 of 38 passes for 270 yards, threw for two touchdowns and ran for another for Appalachian State (0-1). Jalin Moore ran 18 times for 88 yards and scored a go-ahead touchdown on a 16-yard run. Malik Williams caught two touchdowns for the Mountaineers and Chandler Staton added a 38-yard field goal.

"That was a resounding yes that we won't back down, we will keep fighting," Appalachian State coach Scott Satterfield said. "That's the heart of our program for the last 30 years. (At least) since I've been here."

History nearly repeats

In 2007, it was No. 5. Michigan fighting for its life trying to make a game-winning kick at home against the I-AA Mountaineers. But Corey Lynch blocked Michigan's field-goal attempt to seal the 34-32 win. No I-AA team had ever beaten a team ranked in The Associated Press Top 25 poll between 1989 and 2006, and it's unlikely it had ever happened before. Afterward, the AP changed the way it conducted its poll, allowing schools from all divisions to be eligible to receive votes.

On Saturday, another storied Big Ten program was on its heels against the Mountaineers, a Sun Belt Conference powerhouse that went 8-4 a year ago. There was a late field-goal try, too, but the 56-yard bid from Staton sailed wide right to set up OT.

The takeaway 

Appalachian State: The Mountaineers continued their trend of playing Top 25 teams tough in season openers. Two years ago, they also lost in overtime on the road to a top 10 opponent (20-13 to No. 9 Tennessee) and hung tough against Georgia last season. They controlled play for much of the first half and looked poised to deliver another stunning performance after their 2007 stunner over Michigan in The Big House. Despite the loss, they appear to have the pieces to make a run at what would be at their third straight Sun Belt championship.

Penn State: Having lost their three top playmakers and vaunted offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead, who took over as Mississippi State's head coach, the Nittany Lion offense looks like a work in progress. McSorley can do plenty with his legs if he and his receivers aren't on the same page but Penn State's defense couldn't get a stop in the fourth quarter where the Nittany Lions were outgained and outscored 28-14.

Poll implications

Penn State: It wasn't a pretty showing by any means, but the Nittany Lions have enough talent and one of the best players in the country in McSorley to stay among the poll's elites.

Up next

Appalachian State travels to Charlotte on Sept. 8

Penn State visits Pittsburgh on Sept. 8.