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Penn State Football: Nittany Lions Win 33-13 Following Second Half Push

by on September 03, 2016 7:00 PM

Penn State looked like a program somewhere between where it was and where it wants to be Saturday as the Nittany Lions overcame a sluggish start en route to a 33-13 victory over Kent State.

The Nittany Lions' new up-tempo offense engineered by offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead hardly lived up to the hype during the opening two series of the game, going three-and-out and gaining just 11 yards. To many in attendance it was an all too real reminder of the often stagnant and miscue-heavy offense that marked the entirety of the past two seasons.

But Penn State's third drive did in fact prove to be the sign of potential things to come. A nine play, 79-yard march balanced 25 yards on the ground by standout sophomore Saquon Barkley and a 26-yard reception by Chris Godwin that put Penn State on the Kent State 41. The gain gave the Nittany Lions' their first, first down of the game and momentum to break out of the early slump of anything-but exciting up-tempo football.

That drive culminated some 3:23 after it began as McSorley faked a handoff to Barkley before slinging it four yards to DaeSean Hamilton to open the scoring for the home team. Penn State went for the two-point conversion but failed as McSorley's scramble came up just shy. With that the Nittany Lions took a 6-3 lead to answer a Kent State drive of 11 plays and 64 yards that spanned 4:37 and benefited greatly from a facemask penalty that gifted the Golden Flashes 15 free yards.

Kent State responded with a 49-yard drive of its own and a 43-yard field goal to tie the game early in the second quarter, and the Nittany Lions' offense sputtered again with with a short drive and a 38-yard punt by freshman Blake Gillikin. Gillikin was impressive in his Penn State debut earning a standing ovation from many fans following a booming 49-yard punt early in the game.

But like so many years before it was Penn State's defense that came up with a timely turnover, safety Marcus Allen popping the ball loose and recovering the fumble on his own giving the Nittany Lions a short field at the Kent State 13.

From there it was just two short runs by Barkley to punch the ball in, the sophomore working down the right side of the field past the pylon for the score. Penn State followed up the short offensive series with a strong defensive stand that seemingly gave the Nittany Lions all the momentum in the world.

Working with the ball and crowd on its side, Penn State seemed poised to drive the field again but McSorley was hit as he set to throw and the fumble was recovered and returned 20 yards for a touchdown that tied the game at 13-13.

Penn State didn't completely lose the offensive momentum it had. The Nitany Lion offense responded with a 12-play, 49-yard drive that stalled deep in Kent State territory as Penn State settled for a 29-yard field goal to go up 16-13 at the half. Tyler Davis was 2-for-2 on the day.

The final 30 minutes opened with a Kent State drive and another Penn State defensive stand. Just three plays into the half, corner Amani Orywariye jumped a route, intercepting the ball in stride and returning it 30 yards for the score on the second Kent State turnover of the game. Penn State maintained the defensive momentum swing with another stand, holding Kent State to -3 yards on the ensuing drive.

Up 23-13, another drive stalled deep in Kent State territory and Tyler Davis' field goal put Penn State up 26-13.

From there it was a back and forth sequence of series with neither team moving the ball with much efficiency until a 30-yard strike to a wide open Mike Gesicki put Penn State up 33-13 with 1:47 left to play.

Penn State finished with 150 yards of offense on the ground behind Barkley's 105 while McSorley tossed for 205 through the air. The Nittany Lion defense ending the afternoon with seven sacks. 

Penn State now turns its attention to next weekend's meeting with Pitt.

Ben Jones covers Penn State football and basketball for He's on Twitter as @Ben_Jones88.
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