Pittsburgh has rushed the ball for 214 yards on nearly seven yards a carry, but a disastrous effort in the kicking game has allowed Penn State to carry a 14-6 lead into the locker room.
Penn State opened the game as well as a coach (or fan) could hope: by forcing a Pitt three-and-out, then moving 63 yards in three plays for a touchdown, as K.J. Hamler put the Nittany Lions on top with a 32-yard run.
The Panthers answered, though, ripping through 75 yards in 10 plays, culminating in a 13-yard Qadree Ollison rush, but a bobbled extra point snap kept the Panthers’ deficit at 7-6.
Kicking woes would be a theme through the first half, as a driving rain on the Heinz Field grass ruined the kicking surface for both sides. Penn State moved to the Pitt 27 on its second possession, but Jake Pinegar‘s 45-yard field goal try was no good.
Pitt returned the favor midway through the second quarter, as the Panthers could not get a clean hold for Alex Kessman, whose 35-yard try was pulled to the right. Pitt’s defense immediately got the ball back when Rashad Weaver hopped on a Ricky Slade fumble at the Penn State 31.
The Panthers moved to the Penn State 4 on a 4th-and-3, and Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi elected to go for it, but Ollison was stuffed for a loss of three.
Then, with 59 seconds left in the half, Pitt lined up to punt the ball and accept its 1-point halftime deficit, but Kirk Christodoulou, who struggled to corral the earlier snaps as the holder, dropped the punt snap, and Penn State hopped on the loose pigskin at the Pitt 35. Trace McSorley hit Himler for a 14-yard touchdown pass two plays later.
McSorley completed 7-of-11 passes for 82 yards and the late score, while Miles Sanders rushed eight times for 74 yards.
Ollison carried Pitt’s offense, rushing 17 times for 125 yards and a score. Pitt’s passing offense has been non-existent, as Kenny Pickett completed 4-of-8 passes for a paltry 17 yards with an interception.
Penn State will receive to open the second half.