Pittsburgh Panthers Come to Happy Valley
The Pittsburgh Panthers come to Happy Valley this Saturday. They are playing in Beaver Stadium for the first time since September 11, 1999. The Nittany Lions were ranked No. 2 and came off of a 70-24 thrashing of Akron in anticipation for that game. Currently, the Nittany Lions are ranked No. 4 and beat Akron 52-0 a week ago.
The 1999 game was hard-fought on both sides and ended with a Penn State win, 20-17. The Nittany Lions had to win on a 24-yard field goal from kicker Travis Forney (who my older sister had a crush on at the time).
Penn State fans are hoping for an easier game than 1999 to start the season 2-0.
Four Things to Look for: Penn State vs. Pitt Edition
1. A determined Pitt football team
The season opener did not go very well for the Panthers. They squeaked out an overtime win against Youngstown State 28-21. Going into the third quarter, Pitt had a 21-0 lead before allowing 21 unanswered points to Youngstown State in the second half. Pitt running back, Qadree Ollison, had two touchdowns, but was held to 91 rushing yards. Ollison also suffered an ankle injury in the first half of the game. It will be interesting to see if he is ready to go for Saturday.
The Pittsburgh Panthers come to Happy Valley on Saturday and even though they did not have a good opening week, they will give this game everything they have.
2. Saquon Barkley seeing more playing time and more carries than last week
Saquon Barkley sat for the fourth quarter against Akron, but that did not stop him from being named Co-Offensive Big Ten Player of the Week with 172 rushing yards. Barkley also recorded three receptions for 54 yards on Saturday. The Panthers will have to watch his receiving abilities, as well as his rushing skill. The Panthers defense allowed 418 total yards of offense to a Youngstown State team that doesn’t have the ability of Barkley and McSorley. Look for Barkley to continue his dominant, Heisman-hopeful season against a Pitt defense that is on the weaker side.
3. Penn State linebackers playing a bigger role
DE Ryan Buchholz forced a fumble and had four tackles in the dominant defensive stand against the Zips a week ago. The linebackers were noticeably quiet and that was okay against Akron. It will not be okay moving forward. Linebackers Jan Johnson and Jarvis Miller had seven tackles against the Zips. In addition, Miller had a sack in the fourth quarter. If the Nittany Lions want to completely shut down the Panthers on Saturday, three-year starter Jason Cabinda, will have to have more of a presence. Last season, the Panthers ran all over a linebacker corps that was riddled with injuries. Look for Cabinda and company to make their presence known, as they are all healthy and have good depth.
4. Trace McSorley spreading the ball around
McSorley has thrown a touchdown in every one of his last 16 games. He had 280 passing yards to six different receivers on Saturday. This will have to remain the trend to take advantage of a Pittsburgh secondary that gave up 311 passing yards to five different receivers in their opener. The height of Juwan Johnson and Mike Gesicki, coupled with the speed of Hamilton and Barkley will be too much for the Panthers’ secondary to handle. Look for Offensive Coordinator Joe Moorhead to continue to use McSorley’s arm and spread the ball around on Saturday.
The Pittsburgh Panthers come to Happy Valley on Saturday and will give their best game. Panthers head coach, Pat Narduzzi, firmly believes that the rivalry from the 1980s and 1990s is alive and well. Narduzzi was quoted in an interview on September 4th saying, “It’s an in-state rivalry, at least for us.”
It will be interesting to see how the Panthers play in front of a sold-out crowd of 107,000 and the best student section in the country. The Panthers stadium only holds 65,000 people and rarely reaches anywhere near capacity. Finally, this is not the same defense that the Panthers faced a season ago, and the Penn State linebackers in particular will be eager to show that. Look for a win for the No. 4 Nittany Lions against the Panthers on Saturday.