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What We Learned From Penn State Football’s Win Over Idaho

Penn State football made quick work of Idaho Saturday afternoon, winning 79-7 and outgaining the Vandals 673 to 145.

The Nittany Lions took nothing but positives coming out of their first win of the season, but here’s a more in-depth look at what exactly we learned about this young team.

Sean Clifford’s Running Ability Is No Joke

There was plenty of offseason discussion about whether the young quarterback could use his feet, but Clifford put those questions to rest with his performance on Saturday. Along with his 280 passing yards, Clifford ran for 57 yards on seven attempts, including a 25-yard rush that put Penn State in field goal range just before halftime.

Clifford also didn’t give up any sacks on Saturday. Much of the reason for that was his ability to evade pressure and move quickly and decisively in the pocket. Clifford displayed that trait perfectly on his first touchdown pass of the season — a 36-yard dime to KJ Hamler. Clifford stepped up in the pocket to avoid pressure and threw a beautiful ball to Hamler while taking a hit.

The redshirt sophomore’s speed and agility should be a welcomed sight for all Penn State fans.

Penn State’s Defense Is Legit

I know Idaho isn’t exactly an even-matched opponent for the Nittany Lions, but Brent Pry’s defense proved a lot with its dominant performance Saturday.

For starters, Idaho didn’t even convert a first down until well into the second quarter, and could only muster up a whopping four rushing yards against Penn State’s defensive line. Players like Yetur Gross-Matos, Jayson Oweh, and Shaka Toney consistently blew up plays in Idaho’s backfield. In fact, there were 4.5 sacks among the three.

Penn State’s secondary also allowed just 16 pass completions to Idaho for 141 yards. A consistent pass rush and solid secondary play combined for a great day for Pry’s unit and helped lead the Nittany Lions to 11 tackles for loss on the day.

Weak opponent or not, the Nittany Lions put the nation on notice with their impressive defensive performance.

Penn State Freshmen Are Ready To Play

James Franklin was excited after Saturday’s game about just how many freshmen got a chance to add value.

“We were able to get them a bunch of reps,” Franklin said. “Some guys that we weren’t even planning on getting in there. That’s going to pay dividends.”

Some of the most notable freshmen that made big plays were the running backs. Devyn Ford led the team in rushing yards with 107, including an 81-yard game-breaker, while Noah Cain added 44 rushing yards and two scores.

The two young, speedy running backs combined for 151 of Penn State’s 331 rushing yards.

Freshman tight end Brenton Strange also found the end zone on a four-yard reception. Adisa Isaac, Keaton Ellis, and Brandon Smith were just a few of the first-year players to make significant plays on defense. Smith’s massive hit to close out the game may have been the highlight of the day.

This Could Be A Fun Year For Penn State Special Teams

While plenty of the special team stats may have been forgotten during the Nittany Lion’s dominant performance, it was a great day for that phase of the team.

Virginia Tech transfer Jordan Stout finished with an impressive 13 touchbacks on 13 kickoffs. He also hit a 53-yard field goal to give the Nittany Lions a 6-0 lead early in the game.

Jake Pinegar was also a model of consistency in the first game of his sophomore year. The Iowa native hit both of his field goals from 28 and 38 yards, respectively.

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About the Author

Will Pegler

Will is a senior majoring in digital and print journalism and is an associate editor for Onward State. He is from Darien, Connecticut and is a lifelong Penn State football fan. He loves a good 80's comedy movie, Peaky Blinders, The Office, and the New York Yankees and Giants. You can catch some of his ridiculous sports takes on his Twitter @gritdude and yell at him on his email [email protected]

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