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Hey What Happened? The Lions Handle Georgia State

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It seemed like a slow start but the game was in hand in the first half.

NCAA Football: Georgia State at Penn State Gregory J. Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

It has been a while since Penn State fans have felt underwhelmed by a 35-0 halftime lead. Dare I say, not since 1994 has the Lions’ offense looked as though it was in neutral while scoring at will. Last season the team seemed to start slow and then have a strong second half. This week the team started slow until the second half of the first quarter.

The Penn State defense forced five punts and two interceptions in the first half. The second half saw Georgia State drives end with a fumble, interception, punt, fumble, punt and finally a missed field goal. It was a complete, solid effort on both sides of the ball for Penn State.

The fourth quarter showcased many of the players deep on the Penn State depth chart that will be featured in future years.

Let’s take a look at how it went down.

So Many Touchdowns

It didn’t take Penn State long to get on the board. Backup quarterback Tommy Stevens entered the game on the eighth play of the first drive. Maybe we should start calling Stevens the twelfth man, or backup slot receiver. Michael Robinson played several positions during his Penn State career, but seldom was he used as a runner, passer and receiver all in the same game. O.J. McDuffie was moved around on the field in order to get the ball in his hands, but the one pass he threw during his Penn State career was intercepted and returned for 45 yards. It is safe to say that we have never seen a player used in the manner that offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead is using Stevens.

It’s not just that Stevens is lining up at unique locations for a player that is listed as the second-string quarterback; he is a serious threat wherever he is on the field.

Following the first touchdown there was a lull in the action that lasted eleven minutes on the scoreboard. Penn State had only one possession during this stretch, which ended with a punt after six plays. The faithful fans in the stands became a little apprehensive. That is when Joe Moorhead’s offense opened up the floodgates, scoring four times in a twelve minutes.

The first came on this sweet pass from Trace McSorley to Saquon Barkley. Barkley made it look easy. I guess it is easy when you are a superhuman life form hiding among regular folk, disguised as a football player.

On the next possession the Lions went 86 yards in just 3 plays, using 1:09 on the clock, before DaeSean Hamilton hauled in this touchdown pass. Hamilton showed that Saquon Barkley isn’t the only PSU player that can elevate.

Two consecutive Georgia State possessions ended with interceptions, first by Grant Haley and then by Marcus Allen. It was the first interception of Allen’s illustrious Penn State career. With a short field following the second turnover, sophomore running back Miles Sanders showed his resilience and patience when there was no hole up the middle. Instead, he bounced it outside, all the way to the right pylon in the end zone.

Notice Saeed Blacknall, No. 13, blocking late in the play to pave the way for Sanders. Blacknall has shown a great deal of attention to the blocking side of his game this season. Also, check out No. 9 in blue, throwing around his pads like former fullback Mike Zordich. Stevens is not the only PSU quarterback that can play multiple positions; next week we may see the Heisman hopeful McSorley plugged in at right tackle, setting the edge with the back of his left hip.

Brandon Polk used his speed from the slot to draw the safety on his side inward, away from where Sanders would eventually run. Then late in the action Polk again used his speed to interfere with the pursuit angle of the safety, leaving Sanders untouched as he scored. Not only should the blocking efforts be noticed, but the lack of penalties as well. Many times a player does too much downfield while trying to help out, negating a long run. The discipline in downfield blocking has been a huge asset to the team this year.

Trace McSorley followed Sanders’ path a few minutes later with this good decision on a run/pass option. McSorley finished the game with 309 yards passing and 24 yards rushing on the day in just over three quarters of play.

The second half saw a continuation of the offensive explosion for Penn State. Set up by a forced fumble by Shaka Toney and Manny Bowens on a third down sack, which was recovered by Kevin Givens, the Lions scored for the sixth time. McSorley found emerging wide out Brandon Polk in the back of the end zone. Polk was used early in his career as a speed guy on the jet sweep. He is now becoming a complete player, as he has been seen many times blocking on long run plays.

Tariq Castro-Fields intercepted the next play from scrimmage to get the ball back in the hands of the hungry Lions’ offense. The freshman cornerback is making the most of his playing time.

Tommy Stevens caught a pass from McSorley on first down, then ran the ball two plays later before passing the ball to cap off the scoring drive. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a Penn State player, or any player to my recollection, catch a pass, run the ball, and throw a touchdown all on the same possession. Stevens is no gimmick when he moves around; he can play everywhere. Check out the arm-cannon on the guy. He threw the ball almost 55 yards, on the money, with a player in his face, unable to step into the throw fully.

The game was a great tune-up for the beginning of conference play, which will start next Saturday night in Iowa for the Lions.

Notes:

  • Seven Penn State receivers caught at least two passes in the game, including two for Tommy Stevens.
  • Eight different players scored the 8 Lion touchdowns.
  • Daniel Joseph, a redshirt-freshman defensive end, contributed well in his first meaningful minutes on the field. Joseph finished with 1.5 sacks, 2.5 tackles for loss, and a forced fumble. Another redshirt-freshman end, Shaka Toney, had a similarly productive day. Toney finished with half a sack, 1.5 tackles for loss and also had a forced fumble.