Penn State Overcomes Washington’s Defense

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Penn State Overcomes Washington's Defense
Penn State Nittany Lions against the Washington Huskies during the Playstation Fiesta Bowl at University of Phoenix Stadium on December 30, 2017 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo courtesy Getty Images).

Penn State Overcomes Washington’s Defense

Penn State overcame Washington’s defense en route to a 35-28 win in the 2017 PlayStation Fiesta Bowl. The Nittany Lions finished the season 11-2 behind spectacular play by junior quarterback Trace McSorley and a complete team effort. The majority of Penn State games come down to the wire and this game was no different. After starting the game on a 14-0 run, the Huskies capitalized off of Penn State miscues to score two touchdowns before the half.

The Nittany Lions had a 28-14 lead entering the third quarter. Penn State would only score one more touchdown in the second half. Finally, a missed a field goal late in the 4th quarter gave the ball back to the Huskies with less than a minute to play. With no time outs and a fourth down looming Washington attempted a lateral. The second lateral pass was picked off by former walk-on linebacker Brandon Smith to end the game.

Offense Takeaways

Trace McSorley and the Nittany Lion offense had a record day as Penn State overcame Washington’s defense. Entering the 2017 PlayStation Fiesta Bowl, the Huskies had the No. 1 ranked rushing defense in the country. Washington was boasting an average of just 93.3 rushing yards allowed per game in 2017. Nittany Lions star running back Saquon Barkley surpassed that average in the first half. The coaching staff limited Barkley during the game, splitting reps with sophomore Miles Sanders. This did not keep Barkley from breaking out a 92-yard touchdown run in the second quarter. Barkley ended the day, and possibly his collegiate career, with 137 rushing yards, 38 receiving yards and two touchdowns.

The key to winning this game for Penn State was getting a solid performance from the offensive line. The unit did not disappoint. The o-line allowed just one sack and four tackles for loss against the No. 1 rushing defense in the country. Furthermore, the o-line gave McSorley time to deliver the ball to nine different receivers. McSorley ended the game with 342 passing yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. In addition, the o-line made it possible for McSorley to go 12 for 12 on third downs, an area where Penn State struggled all season long.

Finally, senior wide receiver DaeSean Hamilton also had a big game. He become a main third down target. Two of his third down conversions ended in touchdowns. Hamilton finished his Penn State career with 110 receiving yards, as Penn State overcame Washington’s defense.

Defense Takeaways

The Penn State defense held strong. The unit as a whole kept Myles Gaskin under 100 rushing yards, but did allow him to get two touchdowns. Furthermore, the Nittany Lions racked up four sacks and eight tackles for loss during the dominant performance. Senior linebacker Jason Cabinda was all over the place. He forced Washington quarterback Jake Browning into less than ideal situations and the awaiting arms of several different Nittany Lions.

Although the Nittany Lion defense dominated the first half, it was a much tougher road in the last two quarters. Penn State faithful started having flashbacks to comfortable leads slowly slipping away. However, this did not happen against Washington. The Penn State defense gave up big plays in the second half like it had done in several games before. Despite this, the Nittany Lions were not going to allow this game to slip away.

Every member of the defense stepped up in the end. Freshman defensive end Yetur Gross-Matos came up with a big play in the fourth quarter. He sacked Browning for a big stop. With several losses to graduation looming this performance gave the Penn State faithful a glimpse of what the 6-5, 248 lb. freshman will bring in the coming years.

Looking Ahead

Penn State overcame Washington’s defense to win the 2017 PlayStation Fiesta Bowl 35-28. With Saquon Barkley likely leaving for the NFL, losing DaeSean Hamilton and Mike Gesicki to graduation, it will fall on the shoulders of quarterback Trace McSorley to keep the momentum going next season. After his performance against the No. 1 rushing defense in the country, there should be no doubt in Penn State fans’ minds that he is ready for the challenge. With several big targets, such as Justin Shorter and Pat Freiermuth, entering campus in 2018 and a loaded backfield with Miles Sanders and incoming freshman Ricky Slade, there is no doubt that this high-powered offense will keep going. Look for the Nittany Lions to remain dominant in the 2018 season and be a contender for not only the Big Ten Championship, but the College Football Championship as well.

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