Mike Gesicki and Saquon Barkley led No. 4 Penn State to a commanding 33-14 win over Pitt in front of the seventh-largest crowd in Beaver Stadium history Saturday afternoon.
The Nittany Lions now hold a 51-43-4 record against the Panthers in this storied rivalry, which dates all the way back to 1893.
How It Happened
Upon winning the coin toss, Barkley, Marcus Allen, Grant Haley, and Tyler Davis elected to defer Penn State’s choice to the second half.
On the fourth play of Pitt’s opening drive, Haley came up with his fourth career interception. The senior cornerback weaved his way to the Panthers’ 8-yard line before Trace McSorley found Mike Gesicki in the end zone for the third time this season the very next play.
After three straight punts, the Nittany Lions took over at their own 38-yard line with 8:03 left in the first quarter. McSorley promptly led the offense on a six-play scoring drive thanks in part to his 36-yard scramble up the middle.
Two plays and an offside penalty later, the junior quarterback hit Gesicki on first and goal to make it 14-0. He’s now just one touchdown catch shy of tying Jesse James’ record for the most ever by a Penn State tight end. Gesicki finished with four receptions for 39 yards.
Both teams traded punts before Pittsburgh native Troy Apke picked off a Max Browne pass with 1:12 to go in the first half. Pitt went on another lengthy 15-play drive, but settled for a 28-yard Alex Kessman field goal to cut the deficit to 14-3. Dane Jackson bobbled and finally came down with an interception of McSorley’s deep heave as time expired.
The Nittany Lions punted on their first drive following the intermission, but as soon as they got the ball back Barkley blew the top off Pitt’s defense with a dazzling 46-yard touchdown grab. The Panthers stuck to the same methodical approach as they marched down the field for an eventual 24-yard Kessman field goal.
Penn State soon stretched its lead to three scores as Barkley rumbled in from 8 yards out to extend the margin to 28-6, capping off an impressive six-play, 78-yard drive. Pitt composed itself with an extended drive down to the doorstep. When Browne’s helmet came off, sophomore Ben DiNucci checked in at quarterback and scored on a 3-yard run. Qadree Ollison converted the two-point try for the Panthers to make it 28-14.
With his back against the wall at the 4-yard line, Browne hit Darrin Hall on a swing pass, but Marcus Allen, who posted a game-high 12 tackles, was there to clean things up for Penn State’s first safety since Devon Still against Minnesota in 2010. The Nittany Lions tacked on a 24-yard Davis field goal with 3:34 to go to cap the scoring at 33-14 before stopping Pitt on fourth and goal to close things out.
Player Of The Game
Saquon Barkley | Junior | Running back
The Coplay, Pa., native torched Pitt’s defense for 183 all-purpose yards and two touchdowns.
The Nittany Lions (2-0) will host Georgia State at 7:30 p.m. next Saturday on the Big Ten Network.