Mike Gesicki

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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.