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Two Things I Liked, Two Things I Didn’t Like: Pitt Edition

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I wouldn’t mind a drought.

NCAA Football: Penn State at Pittsburgh Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

I LIKED...

1. KEVIN GIVENS WREAKING HAVOC INSIDE

Penn State’s defensive line was given a big boost against Pitt this past weekend with the return of the previously suspended Kevin Givens. The 6-foot-1, 285-pound defensive tackle isn’t the biggest guy in the world, but goodness, is he an absolute terror on the interior.

Givens mixes elite quickness with a high football I.Q. to make up for any “prototypical” physical shortcomings he has. Watch here as he diagnoses the jet sweep, but then has the quickness to not only burst past the oncoming lineman, but to also make a play on the speedy receiver.

What should make Penn State fans most excited though is Givens’ improved ability when stuffed at the line of scrimmage. Watch here as Pitt’s center Jimmy Morrissey is engaged with Givens, and seems to have control of the 285-pounder. Fortunately for Penn State, Givens is able to hold his ground, and when the play comes back around to him, is able to disengage and quickly make a stop on Qadree Ollison.

Givens is just as good as a pass rusher. Although he didn’t get home here (thanks in part to a clear hold), he did cause Kenny Pickett to flee the pocket, and played a substantial part in the play resulting in no gain for the Panthers.

And of course, despite the Monday Night Football promo not allowing us to see the whole play, Givens can just straight up blow up a play.

While I think Penn State will go back to heavier defensive tackle rotations against Kent State and Illinois, you should expect to see a lot of Kevin Givens come September 29 and beyond. He’s just simply on another level, and is a true difference maker on the interior.

2. BLAKE GILLIKIN DROPPING THE BALL INSIDE THE 20

Pitt running essentially a high school offense was truly the root of its scoring problems Saturday night, but let’s give Blake Gillikin a ton of credit for pinning the Panthers deep. In the third quarter, Gillikin produced the following:

  • 52-yard punt to the Pitt 15 yard line.
  • 51-yard punt which after an illegal block, pushed the Panthers to their 5 yard line.
  • Another 45-plus-yarder that Pitt muffed, and once again, pushed the Panthers inside their five yard line.

While it’s easy to forget the punting in a 51-6 thrashing, it was good to see Gillikin bounce back from a so-so outing (especially in the fourth quarter) against Appalachian State because he’ll play a crucial role in all of Penn State’s big games this season.

I DIDN’T LIKE...

1. THIRD DOWN CONVERSIONS

Penn State was just 4-of-12 on third down conversions, which just isn’t going to cut it down the line. Of course, the sloppy conditions played a part in the passing game struggles which directly impacted Penn State’s inability to convert on third downs, but the point still has merit.

Fortunately, the Nittany Lions have a rather easy two weeks coming up, so I’d expect a stronger emphasis on some of the smaller things — like converting third and manageables — over the next 14 days. Produce some above 50% conversion rates against Kent State and Illinois, and let’s give this offense even more confidence heading into the showdown with the Buckeyes.

2. THE RAIN

I don’t really have a lot to say here, but I am so done with the rain. Next weekend looks like it might be a wet affair too, and it’s just like...really? I guess I’ll take some of these early rainouts if it means that the meat of Penn State’s schedule is picture-esque 55 degree autumn days, but this rain is really hurting Trace’s passing numbers. We’re trying to win a Heisman here, folks.