Everyone was waiting expectantly for today. Penn State would finally reveal its new offense, and we all wanted to see what it would bring. As expected, the Penn State offense had a few kinks to work out. The first two drives led to three-and-outs, aided by a near catch by Chris Godwin and a catch by Mike Gesicki that was just short of a first down. With the jitters out of the way on the third drive, the game started to open up for the Lions.
Offensive line is still a work in progress, as there were still some plays where they had absolutely no push. However, this performance was a far cry from a year ago, where the offense couldn’t get anything done mainly due to the ineptitude of the offensive line. In a bizarre turn of events, the line had more trouble opening up running lanes as they did pass blocking, which is the opposite of last year. Some of that is due to the new offense, especially the tempo. If the line is able to figure out a balance, the offense will be a hard one to stop.
As expected, the Penn State defense was going to be a work in progress. Even against an offense that was not expected to be that great, Penn State was unable to get out of its own way for much of the game. Penalties, penalties, missed tackles and assignments, and the ever-present struggle with mobile quarterbacks kept Kent State in the game for much longer than anyone would have liked to see.
On the other hand, Penn State took the ball away three times, which made up for their suspect play for much of the game. If they are able to continue to hound the ball the way they did tonight, while also working on cleaning up the sloppy play in this game, the expected dropoff may not be as large as we may have expected.
Second half adjustments were the difference. The Lions opened up the third quarter with a pick six by Amani Oruwariye. The Nittany Lions never looked back from there. Kent State returns the most starters in FBS, and it showed. They employed the same type of offensive play that has given the Lions fits since Franklin took over the team. As the game went on, however, the defense was able to limit the big plays from the Kent State offense and make plays of their own.
Most of us expected this type of result, and it feels good seeing the team put everything together as the game unfolds to put away an opponent who, while most don’t think much of them, is still a team projected to contend in the MAC.
Three Takeaways From the game
1) Take care of the football - Trace McSorley fumbled the ball twice, once turned into six for Kent State, the other stalled a promising drive. He needs to get the first game jitters out of the way, as the rest of the schedule does not get any easier. The team cannot kill its own momentum with silly mistakes.
2) Stop the silly play on defense - Nobody expected the defense to play pristine football right out of the gate, but shooting yourself in the foot by giving free yardage to the opposition isn’t going to make anyone’s job easier. The defense can be given a pass for struggling early as it replaced a ton up front (as well as two solid contributors on the secondary), but there’s no reason for the defense to play undisciplined. Tackling needs to be shored up, as it was atrocious today.`
3) This team will be fun to watch - Maybe it’s a first-game overreaction, but this game, even when it was close early, was fun. I’d forgotten what it’s like to watch a game where you have confidence in the offense’s ability to actually move the ball.
Penn State makes the 3-hour trip to Heinz Field as it takes on the Pitt Panthers. They’ll look to establish themselves as the Dominant team in the state when they renew the dormant rivalry. Game is at noon on ABC.