Nittany Lion Look Back (And Ahead)

Buffalo and Pitt

The Football Letter/Steve Manuel

UNIVERSITY PARK — It was the proverbial tale of two halves in the second game of the season for Penn State. The Nittany Lions struggled in the first two quarters against a Buffalo team fresh off a 10-win season. Some fans showered the players and coaches with boos as they jogged off the field and into the locker room, not hiding their displeasure in seeing their team down 10-7. 

The second half was a completely different story, though. Penn State blew past the Bulls in dominant fashion, outscoring their MAC foe 38-3 in the second half for a 45-13 win. It was an offensive, and defensive, explosion that showed what the Nittany Lions can become when they’re clicking. With that in mind, let’s take a closer look back at Saturday’s win before looking ahead to Week 3 opponent Pittsburgh. 

Looking Back

Star Of The Game: TE Pat Freiermuth  

After being held to a single catch for negative yardage in the first half, Pat Freiermuth rebounded for a seven-catch, 99-yard performance in the second frame. He said he asked offensive coordinator Ricky Rahne and tight ends coach Tyler Bowen to throw his way more in the second half, and they seemingly obliged. It wasn’t so much he was frustrated with his lack of targets, and more so he felt he was someone the team could lean on to get a spark on offense. The second play of the third quarter saw Clifford connect with Freiermuth for 17 yards to the Buffalo 48-yard line. On Penn State’s second drive, after a John Reid interception return for a touchdown and a punt from Buffalo, Clifford flicked a throw over the middle and Freiermuth did the rest, racing past the safety and into the end zone. In a flash, the Nittany Lions were back in control, 21-10. 

The Football Letter/Steve Manuel

Moment of Magic: John Reid’s pick six

Following a Ricky Slade fumble on the Nittany Lions’ opening possession of the third quarter, the Bulls were back on offense, looking to extend their unexpected lead. John Reid wasn’t having it. The fifth-year cornerback read the eyes of Buffalo quarterback Matt Myers perfectly as he threw an out route to his receiver. Reid jumped the route, snagged Myers’ pass and jetted to the end zone. It was exactly the jolt the team, and Beaver Stadium, needed to spring back into life. The boos became cheers and chants. The Nittany Lions never looked back.

Looking Ahead

Mixed bag for Pitt’s Pickett through two weeks

Pitt dropped its season opener to Virginia, 30-14. Starting quarterback Kenny Pickett was under duress all game long behind a Panthers offensive line that is breaking in four new starters. Pickett attempted 41 passes against the Cavaliers, but completed just 21 of them for 185 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions. Things were much better in the Week Two win over Ohio, with Pickett throwing a career-high 321 yards and a touchdown. He was also much better protected, with the Panthers only surrendering a single sack. 

Injuries to the Pitt defensive front

The Panthers will be without two key pieces when they face the Nittany Lions. Junior defensive tackle Keyshon Camp, who injured his knee in the season opener, has been ruled out for the season. So to has junior defensive end Rashad Weaver, who went down with a knee injury during training camp.

Coming to an end

Saturday’s game between Penn State and Pitt is the last scheduled meeting between the two Commonwealth rivals. There are no immediate plans to renew the series after the latest four-game matchup. Pitt won in dramatic fashion in 2016. The Nittany Lions have dominated the past two games, though, beating the Panthers by a combined score of 84-20. Penn State is looking to make it three wins in a row over the Panthers, and claim its 53rd win in the series.

The Football Letter/Steve Manuel

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