Penn State Hangs On For 34-27 Win Over Temple
James Franklin’s Nittany Lions desperately needed a win over Matt Rhule and Temple Saturday in Beaver Stadium after losing to the Owls for the first time since 1941 to open last season. They did so in front of a “Stripe Out” crowd in a close 34-27 victory.
How It Happened
Brandon Polk was the team’s return man of the day, and he made his case for the job with an electrifying return he nearly took to the house if it wasn’t for a last-ditch effort by Temple’s coverage team. A late hit set the Lions up at the Owls 42 yard line. The drive stalled almost immediately after McSorley was pressured on consecutive plays. The Lions were forced to punt it away, but true freshman punter Blake Gillikin proved why he’s on scholarship with a gorgeous punt that was downed on the one.
After forcing a three and out, McSorley found Chris Godwin over the middle for a 52 yard touchdown to get Penn State on the board first. The pass was McSorley’s longest career pass as a Nittany Lion. But, just as it did last week, the Lions couldn’t contain the big play. Phillip Walker found his man deep to get the Owls to the Penn State eight yard line, and star back Jahad Thomas finished the job to tie the game up at 7-7 with 8:54 left in the first quarter.
Saquon Barkley was oddly absent for most of the first quarter, but backup Andre Robinson seemed happy to share the load. He pounded in a six yard run for his first career touchdown to give the Lions a 14-7 lead toward the end of the first quarter. A scary moment occurred on Penn State’s ensuing punt return after stopping the Owls. Nyeem Wartman-White, who missed all of last season with a knee injury, went down clutching the same knee. Luckily, after a few minutes, he was able to walk off on his own power, but was taken into the locker room.
Play stopped briefly as the crowd turned to watch a commemorative video of Joe Paterno’s legacy playing on the scoreboards — a video that was met with roaring applause. After trading blows, Penn State finally broke through again after McSorley engineered a drive down the field to set up shop deep in Temple territory. McSorley finished the drive himself with a two yard scramble to the right pylon for his first career rushing touchdown to put the Lions up 21-7 with seven minutes left in the first half. Saquon Barkley was held out of most of the first half, but checked back in late in the second.
A late field goal after an end-of-half charge by Temple made it 21-10 heading into halftime. McSorley held his own, finishing 13-of-18 for 171 yards and two touchdowns (one rushing). Chris Godwin broke out with six grabs for 111 yards and a score.
The second half started off with a bang. After a quick defensive stop, the Nittany Lions stormed down the field thanks to a circus catch by Mike Gesicki. Unfortunately, the drive stalled and the Lions had to settle for a field goal to go up 24-10. Tyler Davis is still perfect for his career.
Temple received the biggest break of the game after McSorley miscommunicated with a receiver and got cleanly picked deep in Penn State territory. Phillip Walker helicoptered into the endzone on fourth and goal, and two penalties later, Austin Jones sent the PAT through the uprights to chip away at Penn State’s one touchdown lead.
DaeSean Hamilton was held catch-less until the end of the third quarter, and boy was his first one a big one. McSorley found him near the left sideline, and it was off to the races from there all the way down to the 13 yard line. A string of negative plays by Barkley and McSorley forced the Lions to resort to a chip shot field goal, which sailed through to extend Penn State’s lead to 27-17 early in the fourth.
The biggest mistake of the day came after Temple’s punt bounced off a Penn State player and was recovered by the Owls on the one. Jahad Thomas walked into the endzone to make it 27-24 Penn State, but Saquon Barkley’s 55 yard home run on Penn State’s ensuing drive reclaimed the 10 point lead.
But the Owls would not quit. A time-consuming drive set up Austin Jones for yet another field goal, which he hit to cut Penn State’s lead to seven, 34-27. The Nittany Lions would hang on, however, and live to reach Big Ten play with a 2-1 record thanks to a late John Reid interception.
Player Of The Game
Chris Godwin | Junior | Wide receiver
The Middletown, Del., native led all receivers Saturday with seven catches for 117 yards and a touchdown.
The Nittany Lions will travel to Ann Arbor, Mich., for their first Big Ten game of the season against Jim Harbaugh and Michigan. Kick time for next weekend’s contest will be announced this Sunday.