1. KJ Hamler Doing Ridiculous Things
Hamler only had two touches offensively — one reception for 22 yards and one carry that went for nada — but the
5-foot-9 5-foot-10 human joystick lived up to his nickname on special teams. With Penn State staring at just a 21-10 lead going into halftime, Hamler gave the team the spark it needed, returning a kickoff 52 yards to set Penn State up for a quick touchdown before halftime.
While the kickoff return was nice, it’s what he did on his punt return to close out the third quarter that had the entire stadium (of which there were maybe 75,000 people left) buzzing.
Specifically, look at this screen grab:
Hamler did not get tackled there, and instead, ran for another eight seconds before finally being tackled 20 yards down the field on the opposite side.
I mean, come on.
The season is still incredibly young, and Hamler himself is still incredibly young, but it’s becoming more and more difficult to temper expectations when he’s making plays like this every game. In just three weeks, he’s proven to be the type of player who can score any time he touches the football, and just has a knack for making a big play.
Like I said earlier, he had a light day offensively with just two touches against Kent State. But make no mistake about it, Hamler will figure into the plans more heavily in the weeks ahead. Flat out, he’s just too talented and too versatile not to get the ball on offense more than two times per game.
2. Literally All The True Freshmen
It was a notable day for the 2018 recruiting class with Ricky Slade, Justin Shorter, Daniel George, Jahan Dotson, Pat Freiermuth, Zack Kuntz, Rasheed Walker, PJ Mustipher, Jayson Oweh, Micah Parsons, Jesse Luketa, and Trent Gordon all getting reps in the rout of Kent State.
While some of these guys we’ll see a lot more of (hello, Micah) and others we might not see much more of to preserve a redshirt (hello, Rasheed), it was a great reminder of how stupidly talented the true freshmen are. From Jayson Oweh’s two-sack performance, to Zack Kuntz being the nimblest little 6-foot-7 fella around, to Rasheed Walker showing his ability and how awesome it is that Penn State will get to redshirt him — man, James Franklin is building something special. Crazy to think with the team Penn State has now, but even better times are ahead thanks to a special 2018 recruiting class.
I DIDN’T LIKE...
1. The Penalties
The Nittany Lions were called for nine penalties on Saturday, which was tied for the third-most times Penn State was flagged during an outing under James Franklin’s watch. Now sure, I thought the referees were a little quick to the whistle on some holds (on both sides), but there were quite a few “mental” penalties from Penn State too — i.e. the multiple offsides on the first drive, and Freiermuth just blocking Juwan Johnson’s man on the pick play.
Franklin’s teams are usually pretty clean when it comes to penalties — this is just the sixth game with more than five penalties in the last 26 games — so I don’t doubt they’ll get it cleaned up, but like the drops that have plagued Penn State this season, it’s just a little too much sloppiness for my liking.
2. Juwan Johnson’s No Show
Speaking of the drops, it’s a little disappointing to have Penn State’s 6-foot-4, 231-pound wideout with zero receptions (and one drop) on the day in which the Nittany Lion offense was zooming. Of course, Johnson for sure had his lowest snap count of the season against the Golden Flashes, which could have contributed to his lack of output. But for someone who had NFL draft buzz heading into the season, you’d like to see a big play or two from Johnson in the passing game.
I still think Johnson will put things together, but even outside of the Kent State game, he hasn’t had the hottest start to the season. DeAndre Thompkins certainly got off the schneid on Saturday, so let’s hope the same will happen for Juwan this coming Friday night.