The Nittany Lions kick off their home slate, while the Bobcats look to ruin another home opener in Happy Valley.
Penn State (1-0) vs. Ohio (1-0)
Kickoff: Noon, Beaver Stadium, State College, PA
TV: ABC (yes, this is actually an ABC broadcast), Noon - Dave Pasch (play-by-play), Dusty Dvoracek (analyst), Tom Luginbill (sideline)
Weather: Break out your finest jorts, as it will be a warm and sunny day with highs in the low 80s during the afternoon.
PENN STATE RECORD: 68-34, 9th Year
OVERALL RECORD: 92-49, 12th Year
VS. OHIO: 0-0
OHIO RECORD: 4-9, 2nd Year
OVERALL RECORD: 4-9, 2nd Year
VS. PENN STATE: 0-0
Penn State is 123-13-1 all-time in home openers...the Nittany Lions are 28-3 all-time against MAC opponents...Penn State is 3-3 in games played on Sept. 10. The last two hames were losses however, to Alabama in 2011 and Pitt in 2016...the Nittany Lions have played a MAC opponent in 19 of the last 20 years, with the sole exception being the Big Ten-excusive schedule in 2020.
OHIO OFFENSE VS. PENN STATE DEFENSE
The Bobcats week one game against Florida Atlantic turned out to be their best-case scenario. Not only did they leave with a thrilling victory, but there were several standout performances from players who entered the season as huge question marks with a near-total lack of experience.
Quarterback Kurtis Rourke was the sole returning starter among the skill positions, and he showed a marked improvement from a season ago. He completed 78 percent of his passes for 345 yards, with five touchdowns (one with his legs), and no interceptions. He was near-perfect in leading the Bobcats to a 41-38 victory. Rourke doesn’t run terribly often, but has the ability to find yards when given the chance, and convert the occasional third down with his legs.
Redshirt freshman Sieh Bangura carries the load on the ground, and got off to a hot start with 114 rushing yards - well exceeding his season total of 93 yards on 12 carries from a year ago, where he kept his redshirt by appearing in four games. Of the 24 rushing attempts by the Bobcats, Bangura had 23, so expect to see a heavy dose of him on Saturday.
Senior wide reciever James Bostic is another player that seemed to come out of nowhere. He contributed just five receptions for 34 yards and did not find the end zone in 2021. However, in week one he went off for six catches for 136 yards and a touchdown. Bostic is the most physical of the Bobcats receiver at 63, 220 lbs., and could provide an interesting match-up with Joey Porter Jr. Senior Sam Wiglusz also seems poised for a breakout year. He had just two total catches during the 2021 season, but had two touchdown receptions in week one, and five catches for 59 yards on the day.
You can probably expect to see plenty of freshman linebacker Abdul Carter for the Penn State defense. About 20 seconds after getting a shout-out from the announcers on Thursday for being the potential next great Penn State linebacker to wear #11, he was promptly ejected for a wildly questionable targeting penalty. He should be able to make up some of those missed reps, and will grow into a factor in the linebacking corps throughout the season. Keep an eye on Penn State’s pass rush as well. They were unable to get much pressure for most of the contest against Purdue, but came on strong in the fourth quarter - thanks to both a deep rotation that helped wear down the Boilermakers, as well as Aidan O’Connell needing to drop back more and not rely on quick passes.
PENN STATE OFFENSE VS. OHIO DEFENSE
The Nittany Lions worked at establishing the ground game in the first half against Purdue, and will certainly continue that trend this week. The tandem of true freshmen Nick Singleton and Kaytron Allen should both receive a heavy workload to help get them adjusted to the speed of the collegiate game.
The right tackle position will offer some intrigue, as Bryce Effner replaced starter Caeden Wallace after some early struggles against Purdue. Saturday will be a good indicator of the plans for the right tackle position moving forward.
Sean Clifford is coming off an incredibly polorazing performance. On one hand, had several misfires, including a horrendous pass that resulted in a pick-six that nearly gave the game away, rather than a big gain for the Nittany Lions. On the other, he had five touchdowns on the day, went 6-of-7 in leading the offense on the game-winning drive with under a minute left, and was named Big Ten Co-Offensive Player of the Week.
There’s also some intrigue with the backup quarterback spot. Drew Allar briefly entered the game in relief of Clifford for one drive to open the second half. He appeared poised, especially for a true freshman, and flashed his immense potential. However, James Franklin stated that there is no final decision on the second-string quarterback spot. Despite this, it would be a surprise not to see Allar come in following Clifford (assuming Clifford doesn’t play the entirety of the game).
Ohio’s defense didn’t impress quite like the stellar offensive performace in week one. The defense surrendered nearly 500 yards, with 364 through the air. They did prove to be opportunistic with two key fumble recoveries. They also produced two sacks. Safety Ben Johnson led the way for the Bobcats defense with a whopping 15 tackles on the day.
Jake Pinegar returns as starting kicker, claiming the job again after Jordan Stout took over kicking duties in 2021. He did not attempt a field goal against Purdue, but connected on all five extra point attempts. Punter Barney Amor proved he’s ready to fill the large shoes of Stout, averaging 46.9 yards on eight punts in week one.
Ohio punter Jonah Wieland is back for his third year as a starter, and had an impressive season debeut with a 44.2 average. True freshman Nathanial Vakos connected on the first two field goal attempts of his collegiate career, with a long of 36 yards.
Penn State-49, Ohio-17
This is the one game where the expectation is that Penn State will show up and outclass the opponent. The Bobcats have had success over the years, even knocking off the Nittany Lions in 2012 in a game we all would like to forget ever happened. But they will need to work their way back following the retirement of Frank Solich, who was easily the most successful coach in school history by about 10,000 miles.
There is plenty of optimism to go around for Bobcats fans following a strong week one performance. However, they do not have the Joey Porters, Mitchell Tinsleys, Ji’Ayir Browns, Chop Robinsons, Parker Washingtons and others to keep pace with the Nittany Lions. Penn State should be able to play aggressive early on to build a lead before turning things over to the guys on the bench to get some much-needed experience.
Nick Singleton and Kaytron Allen each get their first touchdown in a Nittany Lions uniform, while Mitchell Tinsley once again scores the first points of the day for Penn State. Drew Allar also gets his first touchdown pass of his college career in the second half. On defense, Chop Robinson sets the tone for the remainder of the season with two sacks and a forced fumble.
Nittany Lions roll.