Back Hot Read: Pitt Holds Off Penn State

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Hot Read: Pitt Holds Off Penn State

By Southern Pigskin Staff
SouthernPigskin.com
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Pittsburgh scored 42 points, but needed to hold on late for a non-conference victory over Penn State.

1. Adam Bisnowaty, Dorian Johnson, Alex Officer, Alex Bookser, Brian O'Neill. Those are the MVPs of the game for the Pittsburgh Panthers. The first possession of the game for Pittsburgh started on its own 1 yard line and ended in the end zone. On that drive, the Panthers only threw one pass; every other play was a punch in the mouth to Penn State. This was a sign of things to come. Pittsburgh finished with 341 rushing yards this afternoon. Pennsylvanians talk of being blue-collared, hard workers, especially in the Steel City. An offensive game like this will make those workers proudly carry their lunch pails to work tomorrow morning.

2. James Conner looked at the game-film of his game against Villanova last week and said he was "embarrassed" by his play. Mid-way through today's game, Conner also gave up a fumble which Penn State recovered, steering the momentum to the Nittany Lions' sideline. Obviously, Connor has shown that he can fight through more than just an embarrassing game last week and a fumble this afternoon. Conner finished with 117 rushing yards and a touchdown on the ground today. He also had the last scoring play of the day for the Panthers, a 12-yard shuffle pass from Nathan Peterman with 10 minutes to go in the game. Last week, Conner was embarrassed. This week, he should be thrilled, as he battled back once again with an impressive performance. As Conner said while talking to Allison Williams after the game, "You just got to believe."

3. Pittsburgh had a nose for footballs on the ground today. Not only the defense, but the special teams and offense as well. There was a total of five fumbles today. George Aston also fumbled just after he broke the plane of the end zone on one of his touchdowns. It wasn't a legal fumble, but it didn't matter either way, because Pitt recovered that as well. Pittsburgh recovered all but one of those fumbles. Two from Penn State's Trace McSorely, one from PSU running back Saquan Barkley and a muffed punt; all recovered by Pittsburgh. In a three-point game, one can only imagine how the result would have changed if the Panthers did not have such a nose for the football.

4. The defense should have mixed feelings about this win. For the majority of the first half, Pittsburgh completely dictated what Penn State could do offensively. The Panthers defense sold out to stop Barkley in the running game and forced the Nittany Lions to settle for check downs. When Penn State attempted to run plays that took more time to develop, the Pittsburgh pass rush got to McSorely, resulting in two strip sacks, which, as previously mentioned, the Panthers recovered. With that being said, Pittsburgh allowed Penn State to settle into its offense just long enough for the Nittany Lions to mount a comeback. On a couple of occasions, the Pittsburgh secondary allowed McSorely to throw the ball downfield for long conversions, including a 4th and 19 on Penn State's final drive. At the end of the day, Pittsburgh got the last laugh with an interception in its own end zone with under two minutes to play, but I'm sure Pat Narduzzi would have loved to see his defense put the nail in the coffin earlier in the game.

5. There are no moral victories in college football, especially in an old-school rivalry game. But if you're in a rebuilding process as Penn State is, you have to take something out of a game like this. How about your offense putting up 39 points on the day and your defense creating plays when they needed to? Penn State hasn't seen an offensive output like this in a long time. That's why they moved on from last year's OC and brought in Joe Moorhead. His up-tempo spread offense is a little odd to see in those Nittany Lion uniforms, but when your system puts up over 400 yards and 39 points, not a lot of people will ask you to change things. Especially not running back Saquon Barkley, who ran for 85 yards and four rushing touchdowns. The impressive, young Barkley also caught a wheel route for a touchdown that pulled Penn State within a score. They only punted the football one time today, but also had four turnovers, which ultimately would cost them the win. Another bright spot: of the major skill position contributors for PSU, none are seniors. The resiliency and play under pressure of the young Nittany Lions is something to be proud of. If they react the right way after this loss, it will pull them together even more, not break them apart.

Written by P.J. Zucco