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Three Key Takeaways: Penn State Races Past Idaho

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After the first game jitters, it was cruise control for the Nittany Lions.

NCAA Football: Idaho at Penn State Matthew O’Haren-USA TODAY Sports

On Saturday, the Penn State Nittany Lions began their season in dominating fashion against the Idaho Vandals, winning 79 to 7. Since it was a game against a much weaker team in Idaho, we’re not going to dig too much into the details as there’s truly not a ton we can take away from this game outside “Penn State showed up, put in their time, and left.” This game could be viewed as a glorified scrimmage, given Idaho’s struggles over the past few years. That being said, here are three takeaways from this afternoon’s game.

Good start for the Penn State defense

It was to be expected, but Penn State’s defense on Saturday was completely dominant, as they should have been. The Idaho offense finished with just 145 total yards, including 4 rushing yards. The defensive line was swarming all game, totaling 7 sacks on the day. Idaho isn’t the greatest barometer of Penn State’s defense but it’s a good warm up for Buffalo and Pittsburgh who will be good warm ups for Big Ten play.

Offense had its up-and-downs

For scoring 79 points in the game and totaling 673 yards, an offense can only be so up-and-down. That being said, Penn State’s offense in the first half wasn’t always great. At times the offensive line struggled to run block and Sean Clifford at other times didn’t have the touch on the ball you would necessarily like to see. As the first half went, the offense settled in and looked much better towards the end of the half. The first team offense still has a good deal of work to do before they’re ready to take on the meat of their schedule, but it was a good start; it was enough to instill confidence but there’s still some question marks and I’m not completely sold on the offensive line at this point either.

Special teams could be special

Special teams is the one area that you could measure no matter who the opponent is. On Saturday, Penn State’s special teams looked pretty darn good. Kickoff specialist Jordan Stoudt was tremendous, all his kickoffs going for touchbacks. He also hit a 54-yard field goal in the first quarter to put the Nittany Lions up 6-0. Place kicker Jake Pinegar looked solid as well in his performance on Saturday. Punter Blake Gillikin didn’t punt a ton, and his two punts left something to be desired, but with the game well out of hand, it didn’t really matter. Mac Hippenhammer’s muffed punt led to Idaho’s only points in the game (and luckily, his second fumble was recovered by the Nittany Lions). Little things like this, including the near collision between Journey Brown and Jesse Luketa, will need to be cleaned up as the season goes along. All that said, special teams was a weakness last year for the Nittany Lions, and this Saturday’s performance showed flashes of how special the special teams can be this season.