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Five Key Takeaways from Penn State’s Win Against Buffalo

Sean Clifford and the run game stood out for different reasons on Saturday night.

Heather Weikel

The Nittany Lions weren’t ready for Buffalo:

It was pretty evident early on in the game that Penn State was not ready for the Buffalo Bulls. It was surely a first half to forget for the Nittany Lions. That being said, whatever was said at halftime certainly worked as it was all Penn State in the second half.

The first half and the eventual second half domination had a very 2016 Penn State feel to it. We’re not saying 2019 is going to be like the 2016 season, but you could’ve easily put this game into the 2016 season and it would’ve fit right in.

Sean Clifford continue to look good:

Sean Clifford was one of the few players that looked solid throughout the entire game. Clifford looked a lot better against Buffalo than he did against Idaho, showing solid accuracy and touch on his passes while also having good command of the offense. He has to work on a few things, such as leaving the pocket a bit too early, but overall it was a good progression from week one for the signal caller.

Clifford finished with a final line of 17 of 23 for 280 yards and four touchdowns. For the season, he’s 30 of 46 for 560 yards and six touchdowns. He’s had a tremendous start to say the least.

Pat Freiermuth is once again a stud:

I am still waiting for someone to give me a solid argument that Freiermuth is not the best tight end in the country. “Moose,” as we love to call him around here, had a great game with seven receptions on the evening for 83 yards and two touchdowns. There’s no reason that going forward that he shouldn’t be one of the Nittany Lions top receiving targets week in and week out.

Wide receiver Jahan Dotson also deserves a shoutout for his performance on Saturday. The sophomore out of Nazareth, Pennsylvania had four receptions for 109 yards and two touchdowns.

Run game was underwhelming

While the passing game was solid for the Nittany Lions, the run game was anything but. The Nittany Lions offense couldn’t get anything going on the ground, picking up just 89 yards 22 carries. Clifford led the team in carries and yards with 11 for 49. Ricky Slade struggled in his brief time on the field, putting the ball on the ground twice, including one that was recovered by Buffalo. Journey Brown looked solid, finding a bit of room between the tackles. True freshmen Noah Cain and Devyn Ford had just two carries combined, with Cain taking his single carry into the end zone for a 2-yard touchdown.

The struggles in the trenches are concerning

Both the offensive and defensive line struggled mightily against Buffalo, which is quite concerning. The offensive line looked good for the most part against the Idaho Vandals in week one but had some struggles then as well. Against Buffalo, the Nittany Lions struggled to run the ball outside of a 58-yard run by Clifford. Clifford aso had to avoid pressure from the Bulls on a number of occasions.

The defensive lines struggles were a bit shocking as well. While the Bulls had an experienced offensive line, the defensive line couldn’t get anything going, barely getting pressure on Buffalo quarterback Matt Myers. The defensive line also struggled to get to Buffalo ball carriers behind the line. There were a few players who looked good on the line in the game, however, including defensive tackles Damion Barber and PJ Mustipher.

BONUS: Not as good as week one, not as bad as week two:

We have a bonus takeaway here and it’s probably cheating, but in the end it appears Penn State is not as good as its 79-7 demolition of Idaho shows and not as bad as it looked at times against Buffalo. There are certainly things to clean up before they start Big Ten play but at this point there’s no reason to believe they couldn’t compete for the Big Ten East this season. Right now, it seems Ohio State is well above everyone else, but the rest of the East certainly shouldn’t scare Penn State. Saturday served as a test for a rather young and inexperienced Penn State team. The Nittany Lions will face their fair share of adversity down the road, and getting their first taste of it out of the way early and responding the way they did after halftime is a good sign for this 2019 Penn State team.