KJ Hamler

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Penn State special teams a disaster as Kentucky leads Nittany Lions in Citrus Bowl

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The VRBO Citrus Bowl between No. 12 Penn State and No. 14 Kentucky has been dictated by the defenses by both teams and a handful of special teams miscues by the Nittany Lions. At the half, Kentucky leads Penn State 10-7 in Orlando, with Kentucky prepping to get the ball to start the second half.

It was a first half of special teams blunders for Penn State, but none were more costly than Lynn Bowden Jr. returned a punt out of the Penn State end zone 58 yards to the house for a touchdown late in the first quarter. Paired with a field goal on Kentucky’s first offensive series of the game, Kentucky had a 10-0 lead in the first quarter despite not getting much on offense against a stingy Penn State defense.

Penn State started the game with two straight three-and-outs and then capped their third possession of the game with a missed field goal try in the first quarter. Penn State picked up some momentum at the beginning of the second quarter with a screen pass to speedy KJ Hamler, which setup Trace McSorley for a short touchdown pass to tight end Nick Bowers to bring the score to 10-7 in favor of Kentucky.

Penn State has had a few special teams miscues in addition to giving up the punt return touchdown. The Nittany Lions were stuffed on a fake punt run on the opening possession of the game, missed two field goals, and cost themselves some field position by not calling for a fair catch in their own end. It hasn’t been all bad, however, as Blake Gillikin did get off a 71-yard punt that pinned Kentucky deep on their side of the field.

If Kentucky was able to get anything going on offense, Penn State would be in serious danger. But because the Nittany Lions defense is keeping things within reach, this is still anybody’s game in the second half.

Neither team has a third-down conversion at halftime, with Penn State 0-for-8 and Kentucky 0-for-7.

Big runs by Miles Sanders help give Penn State halftime lead on Michigan State

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With Saquon Barkley on the sidelines as Penn State celebrates homecoming, Miles Sanders has been showing he is not a bad running back either. Sanders has rushed for 145 yards and one remarkable touchdown to help Penn State take a 14-7 lead on Michigan State into halftime in Happy Valley.

Sanders ripped off a 78-yard run in the first quarter to setup a five-yard touchdown run by KJ Hamler to put Penn State in front in the first quarter. The one run alone nearly doubled the total rushing yards by Sanders two weeks ago against Ohio State, which he actually did later in the second quarter.

Michigan State tied the game early in the second quarter after lighting a spark with some trick plays that caught Penn State off guard. A fake punt run by Connor Heyward for a 36-yard gain on 4th-and-6 was later followed by Heyward completing a 36-yard pass to Cam Chambers to take the Spartans down to the one-yard line. From there it was a struggle, but the drive ended with La’Darius Jefferson pushing forward for a touchdown.

Penn State regained the lead when Sanders took a handoff from Trace McSorley on a draw and broke tackles and found room to work on his way to a 48-yard run. It was a run that looked like one that might have been ripped off by Barkley.

More importantly, Sanders gave Penn State a lead that it must now protect in the second half. Penn State has enjoyed plenty of success in the second half this season. Michigan State rallied in the second half to hand the Nittany Lions a tough loss in East Lansing last year. Can they do it again?