Five Observations From Penn State’s Win Over Pitt
Penn State downright dominated Pitt Saturday night at Heinz Field, scoring 44 unanswered points in a 51-6 win over the Panthers in sloppy conditions.
James Franklin’s Nittany Lions took a 52-43-4 lead in the all-time series against the Panthers. Not only will next year’s contest in Beaver Stadium be the 100th between these two programs, but it will also be their final meeting for the foreseeable future.
Here are five observations from Penn State’s lopsided victory on the North Shore:
KJ Hamler The Spark Plug Penn State Needed
Hamler picked up right where he left off in the fourth quarter of Penn State’s 45-38 win over Appalachian State, when he played the hero for the Nittany Lions with a long kickoff return and the game-tying touchdown.
The redshirt freshman receiver from Pontiac, MI, scored the first two touchdowns of the night against the Panthers. First, he took a handoff 32 yards down the left sideline untouched, then he hauled in a 14-yard catch from Trace McSorley to make it 14-6 just before the half.
Hamler finished with 145 all-purpose yards in his first collegiate road game and is currently fifth in the Big Ten in said category after two weeks. He’s a threat to score every time he touches the ball, and should continue to draw plenty of attention from opposing defenses.
Amani Oruwariye Turning Into Top Corner
Starting cornerback John Reid didn’t participate in the game after going through warmups, but Oruwariye showcased why he’s quickly becoming one of the Big Ten’s best corners.
The Tampa native leads the conference with two interceptions on the season, following up his game-sealing pick from last week with an impressive takeaway near Penn State’s end zone. Oruwariye maintained concentration and came down with a Kenny Pickett pass on the 1-yard line with 1:05 left in the first quarter.
Oruwariye also had three solo tackles and two pass breakups in the victory. Sophomore Tariq Castro-Fields got the start alongside him in Reid’s absence, racking up five tackles for the Nittany Lions.
Will Fries Solidifies Himself At Right Tackle
After splitting time with redshirt senior Chasz Wright at right tackle last week, Fries appears to have locked down the starting job moving forward thanks to a solid outing against the Panthers.
Penn State’s offensive line paved the way for 390 yards of total offense, including 211 yards on the ground. Saturday marked the fifth straight game the Nittany Lions have surpassed 200 rushing yards, dating back to the 56-44 win over Nebraska.
Fries, a redshirt sophomore from Cranford, NJ, appeared in all 13 games last season with nine starts. The 6-foot-6 Fries is also the backup left tackle behind Ryan Bates.
Sean Clifford Can Sling It
Clifford came off the bench in relief of McSorley with 4:32 remaining and the game already well out of hand. Rather than try to run out the clock, Clifford went deep on his first snap.
The redshirt freshman from Cincinnati dropped an absolute dime into the outstretched hands of Brandon Polk, whose 34-yard touchdown catch capped the scoring.
Tommy Stevens was dressed against the Panthers, but didn’t go through pregame warmups for the second week in a row as he recovers from an undisclosed injury. Stevens was wearing a walking boot on his right foot at the team’s photo day August 18. In his place, Clifford couldn’t have asked for a better first throw.
DeAndre Thompkins Makes Up For Drops
Nine different players caught a pass for the Nittany Lions Saturday, but Thompkins wasn’t one of them. After failing to record a reception in week one, the graduate senior from Hubert, NC, dropped a pair of would-be touchdown catches against the Panthers.
Though Polk got the starting nod in Pittsburgh, Thompkins made a big impact on special teams. With Pitt backed up to its own 3-yard line late in the third quarter, Thompkins fielded a short punt and immediately took off toward the left sideline.
He pointed for Micah Parsons to pick up a block downfield, but it wasn’t necessary for the speedy Thompkins to beat Pitt in a foot race to the corner for a 39-yard score. It was his second career punt return touchdown in a Penn State uniform (Akron 2017).
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About the Author
Penn State ranked just outside the top 100 in this year’s Forbes’ list of the top colleges in the United States.
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