Penn State nearly found themselves in the same halftime deficit at home from a week ago, but a school-record field goal from 57 yards by Jordan Stoudt tied the game at 10-10 with just seconds to go until halftime. Pitt took a late first-half lead on a Vincent Davis touchdown run before Penn State was able to answer before halftime.
In a slightly familiar theme for the first half for Penn State, a slow start on offense must be overcome. Last week, Penn State trailed Buffalo at halftime by an identical 10-7 deficit, and Buffalo also took the lead late in the first half. Pitt quarterback Kenny Pickett got off to a rough start but has calmed down and found his poise with short, high-percentage passes to methodically attack the Penn State defense. Pitt’s gameplan to work the clock has worked with the Panthers controlling the football for nearly double the time Penn State has held the football, and the defense for the Panthers have not made things easy for Penn State quarterback Sean Clifford.
Clifford has been under pressure for much of the first half. If not for an 85-yard run by Journey Brown on third-and-long from the Penn State three-yard line in the first quarter, Penn State may have only had three points the way the first half has gone. Brown’s long run led to Penn State opening the scoring with a Devyn Ford touchdown run from the one-yard line to cap a 98-yard touchdown drive.
So once again, Penn State has some work to do with the offense at halftime. Protecting Clifford has to be a priority. Meanwhile, Pitt can stick to their slow and methodic style until pressed to make a change. This is the kind of game that plays to Pitt’s advantage.