Jordan Stoudt

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No. 13 Penn State sidesteps Pitt in 100th (and temporarily final) meeting

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A week of verbal jabbing and pettiness culminated in the 100th meeting in the rivalry between No. 13 Penn State (3-0) and Pitt (1-2) on Saturday afternoon. After a delayed start to the game due to weather conditions in the area, the last regular-season meeting between the two programs on the schedule certainly felt like an intense game, as Penn State held off the Panthers 17-10 to move to 3-0.

Penn State quarterback Sean Clifford was under pressure all day against a feisty Pitt defensive line, and at times he certainly looked like a young quarterback who was feeling the pressure. He ended the game completed less than half of his passes (14-of-30) but did throw for 222 yards without an interception (one was waved off due to a Pitt penalty). Pitt quarterback Kenny Pickett was much more effective with shorter passes and lobs that were somehow caught by his receivers for big gains, as he passed for 372 yards. But like Clifford, Pickett was unable to get his team in the endzone through the air. The only touchdown allowed by the Penn State defense came near the end of the first half with Vincent Davis briefly giving the Panthers a 10-7 lead.

Penn State managed to tie the game just before halftime on a school-record 57-yard field goal by Jordan Stoudt, avoiding a second straight week trailing their opponent at halftime at home. Penn State’s defense wasn’t perfect in the second half, but the Nittany Lions shutout the Panthers after the break. A 13-yard run up the middle of the Pitt defense gave Penn State the go-ahead and eventual game-winning score in the third quarter. From there, it was all about the defense.

Both teams had their share of struggles on third downs, but both teams thrived on fourth down. Pitt was a perfect 3-for-3 on fourth down, which made a decision by Pat Narduzzi to kick a field goal from the Penn State one-yard line all the more puzzling in the fourth quarter. With 4:54 to play and trailing by seven, Narduzzi sent kicker Alex Kessman out for a 19-yard try that bounced off the goal post.

There are no meetings between the two schools currently scheduled for the future, so, for now, the 100th meeting will give Penn State the in-state bragging rights. Pitt won the first meeting in this four-year revival, but Penn State won the last three meetings, including two in decisive fashion. For now, Penn State will get a bye week to prepare for their Big Ten opener in two weeks at Maryland. Maryland will be looking to bounce back after being upset in southeastern Pennsylvania just prior to Penn State finishing off Pittsburgh. Maryland was upset at Temple as their high-powered offense was nowhere to be seen.

Pitt will return to action next week with another good quality opponent. The Panthers host UCF a week after the Knights are playing Stanford.

Penn State draws even with Pitt at halftime thanks to school-record 57-yard field goal

Photo by Mark Alberti/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
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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.