Although the first half left a lot to be desired, it didn’t take long for the Nittany Lions to establish control in the second half. Once the game was no longer in doubt, James Franklin and Penn State made it clear to Pat Narduzzi which program ran the state.
The Nittany Lions got off to a quick start. The Penn State defense forced a three-and-out, and the offense followed with a terrific opening drive, ending in a 32-yard rushing touchdown from KJ Hamler off a jet sweep. While Hamler was running down the sideline, Miles Sanders shushed the Pitt sideline (and, notably, good friend Damar Hamlin who was on the ground), and it appeared the rout would be on.
From there, things got sloppy on both sides. Pitt broke off a few big runs — a 63 yarder from Qadree Ollison and a 38 yarder from Shocky Jacques-Louis — but the Panthers couldn’t completely capitalize thanks to some special teams blunders. Pitt missed an extra point and a field goal, which forced Pat Narduzzi’s hand to go for it on fourth-and-3 during the second quarter — a move which did not work out for the Panthers.
Penn State wasn’t exactly clean though, either. A block-in-the-back penalty on Brandon Polk erased an 80-yard scamper from Miles Sanders, while backup running back Ricky Slade coughed up the rock while in Penn State territory. Fortunately, Slade’s fumble didn’t lead to Pitt points, but a 7-6 score was not exactly inspiring with 29 minutes gone by in the first half.
Luckily, that last minute Penn State found some magic due in part to another Pitt special teams blunder. Pitt punter Kirk Christodoulou botched the snap and couldn’t get off the punt, giving the Nittany Lions’ offense terrific field position just before the end of the half. From there, it only took Penn State three plays to find the end zone, with Trace McSorley firing a strike to a wide-open KJ Hamler, making it 14-6 Penn State going into the break.
The third quarter was all Penn State. An eight-play, 40-yard drive that was kept alive thanks to a roughing the passer call put the Nittany Lions up 21-6, and then, the defense stepped up in a big way, as Ellison Jordan was held in the end zone, giving the Nittany Lions a safety to go up 23-6 with 7:38 remaining in the third quarter.
Although the offense sputtered in the third quarter with some weird passing play calls in a torrential downpour, Blake Gillikin and the defense said, “We got this, bruh.” Gillikin dropped a number of points inside the ten, while the Penn State defensive line ate up the Panthers’ offensive front. To call the Pitt offense “dreadful” in the third quarter would be an insult to the word “dreadful.” Narduzzi’s bunch could muster just -2 yards during the periods. That’s negative two yards. Again, NEGATIVE TWO YARDS.
Penn State cemented its victory with a DeAndre Thompkins punt return touchdown to push it to 30-6 heading into the fourth frame. During the final 15 minutes, well, fun ensued. James Franklin went for the throat, as Mac Hippenhammer, Mark Allen, and Brandon Polk (from Sean Clifford) all found the end zone to make it a 51-6 final.