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Penn State Football: Nittany Lions Show Promise For Future Following Win

by on September 03, 2016 10:50 PM

The first eight plays seemed familiar.

One yard rushing, two yards rushing, a five yard reception, a punt. An incompletion, a three yard rush and another incompletion and a punt.

So if you were watching from the Beaver Stadium stands or from the comfort of your couch you could be excused for feeling like maybe this could be going better. Or even that maybe Joe Moorhead's offense was suddenly reminding you of John Donovan's offense and that there is nothing wrong with getting a little buzzed at 4 PM.

But from there things seemed to get better, sure it wasn't perfect, but 150 yards rushing and 209 through the air makes for a fairly digestible debut of an entirely new scheme. In truth you could probably win a lot of games with those numbers.

"Yea you always expect little hiccups when you're going into week one," Chris Godwin said after the game. "It's the first time you're going up against different competition than what you've seen in practice so the biggest thing is that we improve from Week 1 to Week 2."

And that's probably the most important takeaway from Penn State's 33-13 win on Saturday. For the first time in a while it felt like Penn State was a team that has the potential to get better. The past few seasons have been an exercise in faking it well enough that maybe you can steal a few wins along the way. Penn State has had to be lucky to win at times simply because the margin for error has been so small. But now instead of needing to be lucky, Penn State might just need to be a bit better, and they may not be that far off.

By the game's end Trace McSorley had put together an otherwise fairly issue-free outing. 16-of-31 with a handful of intentional throw-aways and very few "bad" passes in the mix. He wasn't the best to ever play the position, but as far as starting debuts go there have been worse.

"I thought his composure was really good," James Franklin said after the game. "That’s kind of just who he is. He’s been that everyday since I’ve seen him on-campus through the recruiting process. There’s no doubt that we’re going to run our quarterbacks so that toughness aspect is going to be really important and he displays that all the time. He displays it in the weight room, in summer workouts and in practice so there’s no surprise that it showed up in the game as well. I was pleased with him. I mean you look at his accuracy, even some of his incompletions. He had one that he threw away in the redzone, which was clearly a throw away. Another where he drilled a receiver in the facemask. I thought he played very well overall."

On defense the Nittany Lions were perhaps unusually porous at times, but save for a few ill-timed penalties and a handful of quarterback scrambles, holding Kent State to 279 yards of offense and racking up seven sacks isn't a bad outing for a unit with plenty of new faces in starting roles.

“One of the things we have to do a better job of with the scrambling quarterbacks is it was either a sack or a scramble for a first down,” said Franklin. “So we got to do a better job with our rush lanes on the defensive side of the ball.”

But again, something you can fix, something that can be improved. Not a lack of talent, or at least it doesn't appear that way.

On special teams it was more of the same Blake Gillikin averaged 47-yards a punt, Joey Julius was consistent with his kickoffs and Tyler Davis was perfect on the day with two field goals. The return game showed potential and was a holding penalty from having a marquee return for the unit.

All told a drastic improvement for a unit that has been a thorn in the program's side for years.

So in the end, no the Nittany Lions weren't great, but they also looked like a team that had all the pieces to a puzzle that might make a decent looking picture. Does it come together this season? That remains to be seen, but the Nittany Lions look like a program building for once, not a program simply surviving.

And that's improvement all on its own.

Ben Jones covers Penn State football and basketball for He's on Twitter as @Ben_Jones88.
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Penn State Football: Nittany Lions Win 33-13 Following Second Half Push
September 03, 2016 7:00 PM
by Ben Jones
Penn State Football: Nittany Lions Win 33-13 Following Second Half Push
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