Four Reasons For Optimism For Penn State Football Moving Forward

No. 18 Penn State football (0-1) had an ugly start to its 2020 campaign…to say the very least.

The Nittany Lions couldn’t hold off No. 17 Indiana (1-0) in an overtime heartbreaker that ended with a controversial official review. With that loss on the board, Penn State now needs to turn its focus to No. 3 Ohio State for a Halloween matchup at Beaver Stadium.

While things may look bleak for the Nittany Lions right now, there’s still plenty of reason to be excited about the 2020 season moving forward.

Young Players Proved Themselves Week One

Despite the loss, several of Penn State’s younger players stepped up throughout the contest.

Redshirt freshman cornerback Joey Porter Jr. had a day in his first career start, totaling five tackles, a sack, and a pass deflection.

“I was just seeing an open lane,” Porter said after the game. “I was like, ‘I just have to make the hit.’ It felt good, I’m not even gonna lie.”

Along with Porter, several young stars emerged on the offensive side of the ball. Freshman Parker Washington hauled in two catches for 12 yards and a touchdown, while KeAndre Lambert-Smith recorded two catches for 25 yards.

With starter Noah Cain missing the majority of the game due to an undisclosed injury, freshmen Keyvone Lee and Caziah Holmes played larger roles at running back. Holmes didn’t have a huge day with just 16 yards on the ground, but Lee stepped up by earning 35 yards on six carries, averaging a strong 5.8 yards per rush.

Even though it was a frustrating day for the Nittany Lions, it will be extremely valuable to have multiple freshmen step up in much-needed positions going forward.

Gut Punch Is Out Of The Way

The Nittany Lions have had some brutal losses over the past few seasons. Outside tight battles with Ohio State, Penn State lost a heartbreaker to Minnesota in 2019 and blew a game on a last-second touchdown to Michigan State in 2018.

After putting together strong records early on, the Nittany Lions were forced to reevaluate things late in the season. While it’s never ideal to lose the first game, Penn State still has eight contests ahead of it and has plenty of time to adjust issues revealed against Indiana.

A loss leads to serious changes and adjustments, and now James Franklin and his coaching staff can make those with a full slate still ahead of them.

It’s simply too early to panic, folks.

Plenty Of Penn State’s Talent Hasn’t Gone Anywhere

They clearly needed to shake some of the rust off early, but the Nittany Lions still have plenty of their usual stars on both sides of the ball.

Sean Clifford threw two ugly interceptions early but had an overall solid performance once he settled down. QB1 finished the day with 238 yards through the air, scored three touchdowns, and led the Nittany Lions with 114 rushing yards.

Pat Freiermuth led the way with seven grabs worth 64 yards and a score, and Jahan Dotson finished his day with 94 yards. Most of Dotson’s production came on this 60-yard bomb that gave the Nittany Lions the lead late.

Penn State’s offense got rolling in the second half, and can now try to carry that momentum into next week’s contest against the Buckeyes. As for the brutally slow start, I’m going to chalk that up to rust, something plenty of college football teams has dealt with throughout this delayed season.

On defense, the Nittany Lions had a solid day. Indiana put up just 211 yards of offense on the day, and stars such as Shaka Toney and Lamont Wade showed up when needed.

Penn State’s season-opening loss came down to turnovers and penalties — two issues that can be eliminated with a week of practice and a game under its belt. If the Nittany Lions can do that successfully, the loads of talent they have on either side of the ball could make them a fantastic team the rest of the way.

A Win Against Ohio State Changes Everything

Penn State still controls its own destiny, folks.

Ohio State is a very good football team, and it’s going to be a tough task for the Nittany Lions to hang with them Saturday night.

However, in case anyone forgot, this is college football, and anything can happen. No fans in Beaver Stadium will hurt, but this has been such a strange year and season. Why not give Penn State a shot against the Buckeyes?

If the Nittany Lions can eliminate the mistakes made against Indiana, I don’t see why they couldn’t hang with Ohio State. As long as Penn State plays a full, four-quarter game, it’s got a chance to upset the No. 3 team in the nation.

With a win on Halloween, the Nittany Lions would put themselves firmly back in the race for a Big Ten Championship. Don’t give up just yet.

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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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