Penn State’s 17-10 win over Pitt on Saturday in Beaver Stadium won’t soon find a spot in The Louvre.
The Nittany Lions struggled mightily on offense and were torn to shreds through the air but Kenny Pickett, who suddenly morphed into prime Dan Marino.
There were, however, a few bright spots and we’ll address those first.
Much of the talk following Saturday’s game was about James Franklin and Ricky Rahne not riding the hot hand of freshman back Noah Cain. While I’m not as aggrieved as some, it’s easy to see why people would feel that way after a drive during which Cain had six carries for 40 yards and a touchdown. The Texas native who comes to PSU from IMG Academy in Florida seems the most comfortable of Penn State’s stable of backs between the tackles and his willingness to take what he’s given is refreshing. If he continues to do so, his work load should expand in the next few games.
It felt like it was just a matter of time before Micah Parsons had a breakout game this year. Ironically, his numbers were probably better than his play against Idaho and the opposite can be said this week. Parsons was credited with nine tackles against the Panthers, but he was in the middle of everything Penn State did well, whether it was shutting down the run or pressuring Kenny Pickett. Parsons was a game-changer on Saturday and should continue to be so going forward.
Just a reminder, Virginia Tech couldn’t find a scholarship available for Jordan Stout. The transfer has been a massive weapon for Penn State all year and was again on Saturday. He closed the first half with a program record 57-yard field goal and once again boomed each of his kickoffs for touchbacks. Stout is just a walk-on for the Nittany Lions, but it’s safe to say that’ll change in the offseason.
Sean Clifford wasn’t awful against the Panthers, but he certainly wasn’t good. The first-year starter missed a number of downfield throws that would’ve results in big plays and helped the Nittany Lions create some breathing room. Perhaps more importantly, he seemed to struggle to diagnose blitzes and check out of plays accordingly. The Penn State offensive line struggled, but it wasn’t helped by signal caller. A week off and a lot of time in the film room should help get that cleaned up ahead of his first road game at Maryland.
Offensive Line/Matt Limegrover
It’s never a good sign to end up on this part of the list two weeks in a row. I’ve been a Limegrover defender and was expecting a step in the right direction this year. So far it hasn’t come. Once again the tackles looked solid, but the interior trio of Steven Gonzalez, Michal Menet and CJ Thorpe looked out of sorts all day. Mike Miranda was only slightly better. The line still struggles to pick up blitzes and pass off stunts, something they should have plenty of experience with by now. Given the importance of the position, the constant struggles, and the fact that Tyler Bowen is quickly rising through the coaching ranks, Limegrover might want to get it figured out quickly.
You know that John Travolta GIF from Pulp Fiction where he walks into Marsellus Wallace’s living room and is looking around? If not, go watch Pulp Fiction.
If so, then you’ll understand how I feel waiting for Penn State’s pass rush to show up this season. The Nittany Lions front four was supposed to be a major strength entering the season and while the defensive tackles have mostly done their part, the defensive ends have been largely invisible the last two weeks. Yetur Gross-Matos, who may be playing while a bit dinged up, has yet to look like the All-American caliber player that he is. Shaka Toney has been inconsistent, and Jayson Oweh has very much looked like a great athlete still learning the position. The inability to get to Kenny Pickett, or really get close to him on Saturday was a large reason why the Pitt signal caller shredded the Nittany Lions through the air.