Fans didn’t have to wait long to find out how the story of week one would turn out but there was a surprise twist in the final possession, provided by a walk-on running back out of Shavertown, Pennsylvania.
The Lions held Idaho to just 47 yards in the first half while piling on 406, taking a 44-point lead at the half. The outcome was not in doubt for very long on Saturday, but there were things to watch other than the scoreboard once the game was no longer competitive.
Many players got their first chance to play inside Beaver Stadium during game action. Some players displayed noticeable improvement since the last time we saw them. It was a good showing by coach Franklin’s team on a beautiful day in Happy Valley.
Tracking Early Substitutions
The announced starters took the field for the Penn State defense, playing the entire first possession, which ended on Idaho’s side of the field after the Vandals went for it on 4th and short and were denied. Cam Brown sat out the first half due to a targeting penalty in the Citrus Bowl, and Jesse Luketa started in his place. For the next two quarters, players streamed in off the bench for Penn State. There weren’t any surprises in terms of the faces that we saw, or the order in which they entered.
Here were the players that rotated into the game in the early-going.
- Jonathan Sutherland and Jaquan Brisker entered at safety for the second possession of the game. PJ Mustipher was the first sub off the bench at tackle and Jayson Oweh was the first defensive end. Trent Gordon came in a cornerback for John Reid.
- Keaton Ellis entered at corner for the third possession. Ellis Brooks came in at linebacker. Fred Hansard at defensive tackle and Shane Simmons at defensive end.
- Charlie Katshir came in at linebacker on the fourth possession.
- Brandon Smith entered at linebacker on the fifth possession. Judge Culpepper made his first appearance at defensive tackle.
- The starters returned for the sixth possession, with the exception of Jaquan Brisker at safety for Lamont Wade.
- Walk-on special teams ace Drew Hartlaub entered at safety the seventh time Idaho had the ball alongside a mixture of players that had already played. Adisa Isaac came in at defensive end, making his first appearance as a true freshman.
- Lance Dixon came in at linebacker, making his first career appearance on Idaho’s eighth possession.
On offense the starters played the first possession, which began on Idaho’s side of the field but stalled out inside the ten yard line, ending with a Jake Pinegar field goal. The first players off the bench for the offense were as follows.
- Daniel George started the second offensive possession at the x receiver spot, taking over for Justin Shorter who had a catch on the first play of the game.
- Mike Miranda came in at right guard on the third possession of the game. Journey Brown entered and scored the first Nittany Lion touchdown of the season from 23 yards out.
- Des Holmes entered at left tackle for the fourth possession. Nick Bowers was the first tight end off the bench, joining Pat Freiermuth for a two tight end set on Ricky Slade’s touchdown run that stretched the Penn State lead to 20-0 with two minutes to play in the first quarter.
- Dan Chisena. Cam Sullivan-Brown and Mac Hippenhammer entered at wideout and Noah Cain at running back for the fifth possession.
- Devin Ford made his debut at running back the sixth time the Lions had the ball. Ford didn’t get a carry, as Sean Clifford hit KJ Hamler for a 36 yard touchdown on the first play from scrimmage to take a 27-0 lead with over ten minutes to play in the first half.
- On the next possession Ford got his chance and made the most of it, going 81 yards for a touchdown on his second career carry.
The players that entered to that point were all listed on the three-deep depth chart released before the game. As the Lions pulled away in the second half the bench was emptied.
First Half Stats
The game was never really in doubt and as a result many players saw the field in the second half. Here are some of the stats in the first half while the starters were on the field.
Tackles- Lamont Wade (3), Tariq Castro-Fields (3).
Sacks- Yetur Gross-Matos (2.5), Jayson Oweh (1), John Reid (1), Shaka Toney (1), Robert Windsor (0.5)
Passing- Sean Clifford (11-20 213 yards, 2 touchdowns)
Receiving- KJ Hamler (3 catches, 79 yards, 2 touchdowns), Shorter (3-36)
Rushing- Ford (2 rushes-82 yards), Clifford (7-57), Brown (3-30) Slade (5-9)
The 2nd Half
The offensive starters took the field for the opening drive. KJ Hamler had a 36 yard catch to set up a 2 yard touchdown by Journey Brown. Brown had 2 catches for 31 yards on the drive as well, and is looking like he is ready to make an impact this season in a talented backfield.
The defensive starters, including Cam Brown, took the field for the first possession of the second half. It only lasted one play, when John Reid intercepted the ball and took it to the 6 yard line. Will Levis entered the game for Sean Clifford at quarterback and Noah Cain scored on a 4th and goal from the 3 yard line.
With the game in hand, 58-0 with 11:28 to play in the third quarter, the floodgates opened for substitutions. Nick Eury became the fifth Penn State running back to score a touchdown with a hard run up the middle with 2:17 to play, taking the lead to 79-7. Eury finished with 44 yards on 6 carries during the final drive. The walk-on redshirt junior made the most of his opportunity after having just one carry in his first three seasons.
Stats For Stat’s Sake
- Mac Hippenhammer fumbled twice while returning punts. The first play set up the only touchdown of the game for Idaho. The second was recovered by the Lions. Hippenhammer was the third Lion to return a punt, once KJ Hamler and Jahan Dotson were on the bench. John Reid is listed as the third punt returner on the depth chart so we should remember that Hippenhammer isn’t the primary punt returner.
- Brandon Smith finished with 3 solo tackles and a tackle for loss. On the second to last play of the game Smith came up and made a loud, hard tackle that could be heard in the stands. The true freshman linebacker will benefit from not being rushed into the starting lineup but it won’t be long before he is on the field with regularity.
- Penn State outgained Idaho 673-143 and only gave up 4 rushing yards.
- Idaho was just 1 for 15 on 3rd down conversions. After the game, coach Franklin mentioned that the Lions will need to improve their conversion rate as well, going just 1 for 8 on the day.
- The Lions finished with 7 sacks and 11 tackles for loss.