Penn State Looks To Get Back On Track Against Kent State
Penn State looked ready to bowl over the non-conference schedule after a dominant win against Eastern Michigan, but the team faced a setback last week as it was edged out by Central Florida in a close offensive game.
The Nittany Lions (2-1) will try and get back on track in the final non-conference matchup tomorrow afternoon against the Kent State Golden Flashes (1-2). Penn State is undefeated against the Golden Flashes in three previous matchups and it will stay that way if all goes according to plan Saturday.
As of Thursday night, Penn State was favored by 20.5 points against Kent State and for good reason. The Golden Flashes aren’t terrible by any means, but Penn State is significantly better in all three phrases. The defense will likely recover from a disappointing performance against Central Florida in which the unit struggled to stop quarterback Blake Bortles and running back Storm Johnson. The Nittany Lions offense, led by Christian Hackenberg and a three-headed monster of a running attack, has put up points every week thus far and should be able to continue the trend against a mediocre Kent State defense.
Entering the game, the Golden Flashes are coming off two consecutive losses. After beating Liberty in the opener 17-10, Kent State has fallen to Bowling Green and LSU by scores of 41-22 and 45-13 respectively. Penn State certainly isn’t as good as LSU, but it is better than Bowling Green and those two losses give a fair indication of what to expect in Beaver Stadium tomorrow.
Let’s take a look at some Kent State players to keep your eye on.
Roosevelt Nix #5 — Besides having a badass name, Nix is the best defensive player on the Golden Flashes. The senior defensive lineman has racked up a whopping 52 tackles for a loss during his college career and already has four this season. He’s on a bunch of preseason award watch lists and will be doing everything he can to sack Hack and stop the run tomorrow.
Colin Reardon #10 — A redshirt freshman quarterback, Reardon has played extremely well so far this season. He has completed 65.9 percent of his passes for 548 yards and four touchdowns, not yet throwing an interception. Reardon won’t be able to keep up that pace against Penn State, but the Nittany Lions have a young secondary that’s bound to make some mistakes.
Trayion Durham #34 — The Golden Flashes don’t exactly have a prolific run game, but Durham leads the way with 50 carries for 152 yards and one touchdown. He’ll almost certainly struggle against DaQuan Jones, Mike Hull, Glenn Carson, and the rest of the Penn State front seven, but Durham’s number will be called early and often come Saturday.
Some things to watch for from the Nittany Lions:
The defense — Hackenberg & Co. got the job done last week against UCF, but the defense couldn’t make the big stops they needed to help the team squeak out a victory. In the words of the defensive coordinate John Butler, “We couldn’t stop what we needed to stop.” It will be interesting to see if the defense is able to bounce back against a weaker offense this Saturday.
Especially the pass defense — Young cornerbacks Trevor Williams and Jordan Lucas went through some growing pains against Central Florida. They face a wide receiver corps with no real standout option on the Golden Flashes tomorrow.
The backs — All three Nittany Lions running backs have played well thus far. Zach Zwinak is certainly the number one as of now, but another strong game from Bill Belton or Akeel Lynch could shake things up. Regardless, look to see the trio continue rolling over defensive lines, even if Roosevelt Nix is on the other side.
The third down situation — The Nittany Lions have had issues on third down in each of the first three games. Those issues start with mistakes on first and second down that lead to long-yardage third down situations. As O’Brien has pointed out, they’re scoring plenty and producing a lot of yards, so it isn’t a major concern right now. But once some tougher defenses come around in the Big Ten schedule, those points may not come as easily if the third down struggles continue.
We won’t know for sure until kickoff tomorrow, but this should be an easy win for the Nittany Lions in their last non-conference game before traveling to Indiana two weeks from now.
By the Numbers: Reardon likes to spread the ball around. Against LSU, he completed passes to 10 different receivers. The team has three receivers with at least nine catches. Chris Humphrey leads the way with 13 receptions for 186 yards and two touchdowns. Tyshon Goode has 14 receptions for 120 yards.
Blast from the Past: The Golden Flashes have been no problem for Penn State in three previous games. The Nittany Lions won 21-6 back in 1965, 32-10 in 2003, and 24-0 in 2010. In the most recent matchup, Rob Bolden threw for one touchdown and ran for another. Evan Royster added a touchdown run of his own. On the defense, Stephon Morris led the unit with nine tackles while Devon Still had 2.5 tackles for a loss and a sack in the shutout.