Marcus Allen had another typical day at the office - that is to say, he terrorized Pitt’s offense from kickoff to the final, fumble recovery whistle. In a game when Penn State’s offense was merely okay - which, quick aside, if you asked any Penn State fan a couple years ago how they’d feel if a pedestrian day on offense resulted in 33 points, I think they’d kiss you on the mouth, but I digress - Marcus Allen and the Nittany Lion defense played lights out. Allen stuffed runs and dropped into coverage seamlessly, causing fits for the Pitt offense, no matter what they tried. Marcus totaled 12 tackles, and one pass defended, but his sole tackle for loss was perhaps the nail in Pitt’s coffin.
Early in the fourth quarter, Pitt scored to close the gap to 28-14, and the Penn State offense could only muster 31 yards of offense before stalling on the Panthers’ side of the field. An excellent punt by Blake Gillikin pinned the visitors at their 4 yard line. On the second play of the ensuing drive, Max Browne tossed a pass to Darrin Hall, who caught the ball just inside the end zone. Before Hall had the chance to even think about turning up field, Allen skirted around pulling right tackle Jaryd Jones-Smith and laid the lumber, dropping the receiver before he crossed the goal line, and effectively ending any chance of a Pitt comeback.
Plus, we get one of these after every win:
Blake Gillikin - For me, Blake very nearly was my MVP. As referenced above, the offense just seemed out of sync all afternoon. Pitt had over 38 minutes in time of possession, and many times it felt like a short field was all the Panthers would need to get a score and get back into the game. Enter the Gillikin, who averaged 43.2 yards per punt, including the one that led to Allen’s safety. Blake reliably flipped the field for the Lions, and is probably the biggest reason that Franklin opted not to go for it on 4th and 1 at the Pitt 46. Not only that, but he kept dangerous return man Quadree Henderson to exactly zero return yards. Remarkable.
Mike Gesicki - With 5 minutes and 20 seconds left in the first quarter, Gesicki hauled in his second touchdown pass of the day, pacing Penn State to a 14-0 lead. Like many others, I thought the Lions were well on their way to dropping a hundred on the Panthers, but it was not to be. Still, Mike has become a reliable threat, especially in the red zone, where his height is a nightmare for smaller defensive backs. Ya boy also stepped his game up, blocking well throughout the game.
Grant Haley - Haley got the fireworks started, picking off Browne on the Panthers’ first drive, and returning it to the 8 yard line. The defensive back also chipped in four tackles, one tackle for loss, one pass defended, and one sack. Grant is a big reason that the Penn State secondary looks as formidable as it does right now, which is a pleasant surprise, to say the least.