Max Browne

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Saquon Barkley scores 2 TDs as No. 4 Penn State pulls away vs. Pitt

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Big plays helped guide No. 4 Penn State (2-0) past a determined Pittsburgh (1-1) in Happy Valley. Despite Pitt’s workmanlike clock management giving the Nittany Lions offense little time on the field, the Panthers could only tie down Saquon Barkley and the Nittany Lions so much before they made some plays in a 33-14 victory Saturday afternoon.

Barkley finished his day with 88 rushing yards and a touchdown with 45 receiving yards and a receiving touchdown. Barkley also got involved on kick return duty at times, with two kick returns for another 50 yards. Pitt managed to keep Barkley largely ineffective in the first half, but Penn State kept plugging away to get him involved, including back-to-back runs for first downs to start the second half. Trace McSorley found Barkley over the middle for a 46-yard touchdown to push Penn State to a 21-3 lead early in the third quarter.

Penn State’s defense had to grind out some plays and were put to the test against the Panthers’ offensive attack to work the clock. For the most part, Penn State answered the call with a pair of interceptions off Pitt quarterback Max Browne and allowing just three points off two separate 15-play drives. Browne was later taken out of the game after having to be examined for a cut on his forehead after his helmet popped off. Ben Dinucci took over and finished off Pitt’s only touchdown drive on the first play from scrimmage since entering the game.

McSorley did not have a particularly sharp afternoon, completing 15-of-28 for 164 yards, but he did score three touchdowns. The lone interception was a deep pass as time expired at the end of the first half, so it was not a costly turnover. McSorley did contribute to the running game with 65 yards. Tight end Mike Gesicki scored each of Penn State’s two first-half touchdowns, scoring both in the first quarter with one coming on Penn State’s first offensive snap from the eight-yard line following an interception return by Grant Haley.

Pitt will look to give their clock management another tough test next week when they return home to the western side of the state to face Oklahoma State. The Cowboys have scored 59 and 44 points in their first two games, including Friday night’s 44-7 victory at South Alabama. Oklahoma State edged Pitt in Stillwater a year ago in this home-and-home series, 45-38.

Penn State will play a third-straight home game next week before stepping foot into Big Ten play. The Nittany Lions will host Georgia State for the first meeting between the two schools. Penn State and Georgia State have previously worked together at satellite camps in Georgia.

Penn State leads Pitt 14-3, but Panthers working clock

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If the first half was any indication, Pittsburgh’s game plan is to work as much clock as possible to keep Penn State’s offense off the field. That has been fairly effective after one half of play in Happy Valley, but Penn State leads the Panthers 14-3.

Pitt has dominated the time of possession but despite having two 15-play drives has just scored three points. Keeping Penn State’s offense on the sideline has prevented the Nittany Lions from getting much momentum with the ball though, so we’ll see how long that strategy can pay off for the Panthers.

Penn State capitalized on a turnover on the first series of the game with a quick eight-yard touchdown pass from McSorley to tight end Mike Gesicki one play after Grant Haley had picked off a pass by Pitt quarterback Max Browne. Haley’s 42-yard return gave the Nittany Lions great field position inside the Pitt 10-yard line.

Gesicki came up with the second touchdown of the game as well, hauling in a pass on a zone read by McSorley and finding his way to the pylon for a score after the Pitt defense was forced to shift directions after focusing on Barkley in the backfield.

Saquon Barkley has not had a chance to have much of an impact in this one so far, with just five rushing attempts for 22 yards so far.

Pitt QB Max Browne says his exit from USC is “100 percent fuel to the fire” that drives him

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After losing his starting job at USC after just three games last season, paving the way for young rising star Sam Darnold, Max Browne knew he needed to find a new place to play his final year of eligibility if he wanted to start again. Pitt wound up being the destination for the quarterback, and he’ll be bringing a motivation with him driven by the way things ended for him at USC.

Browne was pulled out of the starting job after a rough three-game start that included losses to Alabama and Stanford. Because Darnold fit in so well with the Trojans offense, leading the to a strong second half of the season and a wild Rose Bowl victory over Big Ten champion Penn State, the writing had long been on the wall for Browne that his opportunity to lead USC’s offense was gone. In December, Browne announced he was leaving the Trojans and moving to Pittsburgh to play with the Panthers.

“A lot of frustration, confusion, disappointment,” Browne said in an interview with Andrea Adelson of ESPN.com when describing his reactions to being informed by USC head coach Clay Helton he would no longer be the starting quarterback. “I don’t mean to be negative, but I also don’t want to be fake. That situation was not the easiest one on me, but I was happy to see my guys finish the season out the right way and get that Rose Bowl win, but it was tough.

As you might imagine, Browne is now provided with a little bit of extra motivation to make things right and prove he is worthy of a starting job, even if it comes in another program in a different conference in a completely new region.

“It’s in my blood, it’s 100 percent fuel to the fire, definitely drives me,” Browne said. “I think at this point in my career, being a fifth-year senior, you have to find your spark, and that’s definitely it. That’s what is definitely sparking me and wanting me to lead Pitt to a great season.”

Browne has just one final year of eligibility, and he is expected to be Pitt’s new starting quarterback after the Panthers lost Nate Peterman to graduation.

Cody Kessler’s historic performance propels USC past Notre Dame

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No quarterback has ever had a better day against a Notre Dame defense than USC’s Cody Kessler did Saturday in Los Angeles.

The junior quarterback was almost as perfect as the west coast weather the two teams played in at the Coliseum.

Kessler was 32-of-40 passing for 372 yards and six touchdowns during the Trojans’ 49-14 victory.

It’s the first time any quarterback threw six touchdowns against the Fighting Irish in the program’s history.

USC’s 49 points are also the second-most points the Trojans have scored against Notre Dame during the storied rivalry.

Trojans head coach Steve Sarkisian decided not to run up the score in the fourth quarter. Sarkisian pulled Kessler and placed redshirt freshman Max Browne into the lineup. USC didn’t score another point or a second record could have fallen.

Kessler was aided in his record-breaking performance by the play of his talented wide receivers, George Farmer and Nelson Agholor. Agholor led all receivers with 12 receptions and 120 yards. Farmer, meanwhile, averaged 21.5 yards per catch and scored a pair of long touchdowns.

With the win the Trojans improve to 8-4 in Sarksian’s first season at the helm of the program. However, there are multiple areas where the Trojans can improve during Sarkisian’s second year, particularly among the team’s coaching staff:

While USC’s future looks bright, Notre Dame lost four-straight contests to end the season and five of its last six games.

Changes could be on their way in South Bend.

The first change came during Saturday’s contest when sophomore quarterback Malik Zaire replaced senior Everett Golson. Golson was benched for his poor play, while Zaire finished the contest 9-of-20 passing for 170 yards.

As Notre Dame prepares for its bowl game, other changes in the lineup and possibly the coaching staff could be coming. Nine losses over the past two seasons isn’t good enough for a program that dreams of national championships each and every year.

‘Very lucky’ USC QB Kessler on injury scare: ‘it freaked me out’

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While all is well and good with USC’s starting quarterback, there was a moment or two of trepidation earlier in the week.

During a scrimmage Wednesday, a teammate was blocked into Cody Kessler, with the defensive lineman rolling up on his left leg.  But, as the Orange County Register wrote, Kessler’s “foot slipped out from underneath the 275-pound defensive end’s body just in time.”

Kessler went unscathed physically, but the mental scar tissue may linger for a bit.

“I wouldn’t say I was in shock, but it freaked me out,” the starter said following practice Friday, the first one since the injury scare. “I was thinking, ‘Oh man, I just almost lost my knee. It was more of a frightened, scared feeling as much as anything. You never think it’s going to happen to you. … It was that close to happening.”

“I was very lucky,” Kessler added.

A healthy Kessler is key for the Trojans as they look to bounce back on to the national stage under first-year head coach Steve Sarkisian.

As a redshirt sophomore last season and tasked with the responsibility of replacing longtime starter Matt Barkley, Kessler performed exceptionally well as he completed just over 65 percent of his passes for 20 touchdowns against just seven interceptions. Kessler had been involved in a nominal quarterback competition with Max Browne this spring before being officially named the starter in mid-April.