We are about to play the third game of the 2016 season and things look like they are on the upswing for the team as we sit at 2-0. After a rather shaky opener, a 28-7 win against Villanova at Heinz Field, we hosted our long-time rival Penn State in the first meeting between the two teams in 16 years.
We won that game in a match that had two distinct halves. In each of the first two quarters of play we out scored PSU 14-7 for a 28-14 halftime lead. At that point, and the way we were controlling the game with our running strength (with a TOP of 18:41), you would have thought the 2nd half would be a cakewalk for us.
But that’s not how Pitt rolls as they say. During the 3rd quarter the scoring evened out at 7 points apiece with Pitt still dominating the TOP with a 10:29 to 4:31 margin. That is when Pitt fans started to get nervous though because controlling the clock for that much time and not extending our lead was unsettling. So even though we still held a 35-21 lead things were getting shaky.
That set the stage for the 4th quarter in which PSU flipped the script. During the last 15 minutes Penn State controlled the ball as they started a serious run to overtake us. You can see below that they out scored us 18-7 that quarter and held a 2:24 TOP margin. What was almost our downfall was McSorley’s passing toward the end of the game when he racked up 119 yards in the last 15 minutes of play.
Given the way the game ended – McSorley not seeing a wide open PSU WR in the end zone and instead threw the INT – you can see why Pitt fans are wary of today’s game as visitors in Stillwater. We didn’t pull away for the win last Saturday after holding a nice halftime lead. Instead we held on for dear life…but we won against Penn State and it has felt sweet all week.
Here are the post-game notes for the Penn State game issued by the Pitt Media dept.
After a 16-year hiatus in the Keystone Classic rivalry, Pitt defeated Penn State, 42-39, in a thrilling back-and-forth contest at a sold-out Heinz Field on Saturday afternoon.
The attendance of 69,983 set a Pittsburgh sports all-time record. The previous record crowd for a sporting event held in the city of Pittsburgh was 68,918 for the Pitt football game against Fordham in 1938 (at Pitt Stadium).
Pitt’s 42 points marked the most the Panthers have ever scored against Penn State. The previous Pitt high for points against the Nittany Lions was 41 points in the 1931 contest.
Saturday’s contest was also the highest scoring Pitt-Penn State game ever. The previous record for points in a game in the prior 96 meetings between the Panthers and Nittany Lions was 74 points in the 1968 game.
The Pitt rushing attack finished with 341 yards on 56 carries for an average of 6.1 yards per rush. The Panthers held Penn State star running back Saquon Barkley to just 72 yards rushing on 31 attempts, an average of 2.4.
The Pitt offense opened with a 99-yard drive on its first possession of the game, highlighted by 48 rushing yards from James Conner and 47 rushing yards from Quadree Henderson. The 10-play march in 4:43 was Pitt’s first 99-yard touchdown drive since an eight-play drive in 3:37 against Delaware on Aug. 30, 2014.
The Pitt defense forced four turnovers in the game, including an interception by Ryan Lewis in the end zone with 1:15 to play that sealed the victory for the Panthers.
Junior running back James Conner tallied his 12th career 100-yard rushing game and 13th multi-TD effort.
Conner finished with 117 yards on 22 rushes for an average of 5.3 yards per carry, and had a one-yard scoring run
He also caught a 12-yard touchdown on 3rd and 11 with 10:24 left in the game, putting Pitt up 42-31 and ultimately providing the winning points. It was Conner’s second consecutive week with a receiving touchdown and a rushing touchdown in the same contest.
Senior defensive back Ryan Lewis, whose first career interception clinched the Pitt win, also finished with a career-high nine tackles in the game, breaking his previous best of six set against Delaware on Aug. 30, 2014.
Sophomore fullback George Aston scored the first two rushing touchdowns of his career, both in the first half.
It was Aston’s second career multi-TD game after he caught two receiving scores against Louisville on Nov. 21, 2015.
Sophomore wide receiver Quadree Henderson continued his impressive start to the season with another big game. After tallying 211 all-purpose yards last week against Villanova, Henderson accumulated 201 all-purpose yards against the Nittany Lions. He finished with 96 yards on kickoff returns (with a long of 84), 58 rushing and 47 receiving.
Henderson also caught his first career touchdown in the second quarter, reeling in a seven-yard score from senior quarterback Nathan Peterman.
Senior defensive end Ejuan Price forced two fumbles in a game for the first time in his collegiate career. Price stripped Penn State quarterback Trace McSorley twice—initially on a seven-yard sack in the first quarter and then on a six-yard rushing loss in the second quarter. Pitt scored touchdowns on the subsequent drives off both turnovers.
Price was a force in the game, also finishing with three quarterback hurries, two tackles for loss and one sack.
Yesterday we all made our predictions and I noticed that more than a few of us picked OSU to win. That certainly isn’t far-fetched give what we saw late Last Saturday afternoon. But at the same time a bunch of national sportswriters have chosen Pitt to come out on top.
I think we pull it off because Canada opens the passing game up and that complements the run game.
So – leave your impressions as the game unfolds. It should be a good hard-fought one and let’s hope the Panthers are the last team standing…
(I’ll not be doing in-game comments as I’ll be watching at Dan 72’s house with some other Pitt fans)