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Penn State Football: The Long & Short of Saturday Night’s Drives

by on September 08, 2019 1:30 AM

Buffalo shuffled.

And once the Nittany Lions got untracked, they made a multitude of quick and flashy Penn Statements.

After a lackluster first half, that was the long and short of Penn State’s 45-13 victory on Saturday. The Nittany Lions’ win was a case study in not mistaking activity for achievement, witnessed by a Beaver Stadium crowd of 104,136.

Buffalo had the ball for 90 plays and 42 minutes and 32 seconds.

Sean Clifford & Co. had it for only 47 plays and 17:28.

Penn State’s average scoring drive took just 3.7 plays to go 51.5 yards in 66.3 seconds.

The Bulls’ average scoring drive took 13 plays and 6 minutes to go 77 yards.

Buffalo led 10-7 at halftime.  the second half rolled around, Penn State made especially short work of the visitors from the MAC. The Nittany Lions scored 28 points in the third quarter — that’s more than any single quarter of their 79-7 blowout last week of Idaho. And their most in a quarter in 11 games, dating back to last year’s 63-10 win over Illinois, when the Nittany Lions scored 35 points in their final quarter at Champaign.

Once it got going in the second half, Penn State’s offense was short and sweet. It was a dichotomy that was not lost on James Franklin, whose team is now off to a 2-0 start for its third consecutive season.

“It was a combination of two things,” Franklin said. “We need to be more consistent on offense. And then on defense, we have to get off the field.

“I thought that we were able to get some explosive plays. I thought the inconsistency still stayed there, we just became more explosive in the second half. We had a lot of big plays, touchdowns, one-play drives — which puts our defense in a tough spot because they are having to go right back onto the field.”

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Contrary to his coach, Penn State defensive Rob Windsor said he likes it when the offense scores lightning fast.

“We’re excited when that happens. We like it,” said Windsor.  “That puts us ahead and in a better situation. Makes the other teams’ feet hot. Makes them feel like they have to take shots. That’s when we can make big plays, like John Reid’s pick-six.”

LIONS IN OVERDRIVE

Here’s how the Nittany Lions scoring went, with all but the first TD coming in the final 30 minutes:

2 plays, 37 yards, 30 seconds — capped by Sean Clifford’s 28-yard TD pass to Jahan Dotson.

1 play, 23 yards, 5 seconds — Clifford 23-yard TD pass to Pat Freiermuth.

3 plays, 65 yards, 43 seconds — Noah Cain 2-yard TD run.

5 plays, 55 yards, 1:35 — Clifford 27-yard TD pass to Freiermuth.

7 plays, 55 yards, 1:54 — Jake Pinegar 32-yard field goal.

4 plays, 74 yards, 1:51 — Clifford 56-yard TD pass to Dotson.

That. Was. Fast.

Even — or especially — when you’re on the field.

“We’re focused on our assignments during the play,” PSU offensive tackle Steven Gonzalez said. “When it’s over, we’ll look up at the scoreboard. I’ll look up at the Jumbotron. But if it’s a long touchdown, I’ll normally see it as it happens. I’ll be chasing down the ball. Short, quick touchdowns — I just listen to the crowd.”

Conversely, Penn State’s defense made Buffalo pay penance when it wanted to score. Here’s a review of Buffalo’s three scoring drives:

19 plays, 69 yards, 8:34 — Alex McNulty 32-yard field goal.

10 plays, 96 yards, 4:29 — Matt Myers 6-yard TD pass to Julien Bourassa.

10 plays, 67 yards, 4:55 — McNulty 25-yard field goal.

Buffalo’s 90 plays were reminiscent of a nightmarish stretch for Penn State’s defense in 2018, when it gave up 89 plays to Michigan State, 100 at Indiana and 88 to Iowa.

That’s too many.

“You feel it. You just feel fatigued,” Windsor said, although during the drive “you don’t think. You’re in the moment, You’re in the now. That’s what I love about the sport. I just call it being in the flow because you’re not thinking, you’re going.”

Besides, says Windsor, when a team put together 10 straight plays and only comes away with three points, he considers that a victory.

“It’s great to hold teams to field goals,” he said. “If we do that to teams all year, we’ll be sitting pretty.”



Mike Poorman has covered Penn State football since 1979, and for StateCollege.com since the 2009 season. His column appears on Mondays and Fridays. Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/PSUPoorman. His views and opinions do not necessarily reflect those of Penn State University.
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