Freshmen see time as Penn State rolls
STATE COLLEGE — Penn State’s heralded 2018 recruiting class got plenty of work in during the 63-10 rout of Kent State on Saturday.
While no one from the fourth-ranked recruiting class started the game, 16 saw action.
“We got a lot of guys reps and a lot of guys played for the first time,” said Penn State coach James Franklin. “That creates a healthy locker room where we have a lot of guys who feel like they had a role in the game.”
On offense, Jahan Dotson, Pat Freiermuth, Daniel George, Zack Kuntz, Justin Shorter, Ricky Slade and Rasheed Walker all played. George and Kuntz both had their first career catches while Slade scored his second TD of the year.
On defense, Trent Gordon, Charlie Katshir, Jesse Luketa, P.J. Mustipher, Jayson Oweh, Micah Parsons and Nick Tarburton saw action. Oweh, who had not played in the first two games, had two sacks on his first series in the third quarter.
Freshmen kickers Rafael Checa (kickoffs) and Jake Pinegar (PATs, field goals) remained in their spots.
Because of new NCAA rules, freshmen can play in up to four games and still retain their redshirt.
“We know we got a certain number of guys that we have the ability to get them some game experience,” said Franklin. “Now all those guys have gained some experience.”
Getting the younger players in, also allowed the Nittany Lions (3-0) to get the starters out of game with a short week. Penn State opens Big Ten play on Friday night at Illinois.
“We were able to limit our starters’ reps and that’s critical in the short turnaround,” he said.
Another young Lion
Redshirt freshman backup quarterback Sean Clifford saw significant action for the second week in a row and he delivered again.
Clifford hit all three of his passes for 117 yards and a score. He hit true freshman Daniel George on a Penn State record 95-yard scoring pass in the fourth quarter. It was the longest play from scrimmage in Penn State history.
On his first career attempt — and only pass — last week, Clifford hit Brandon Polk on a touchdown at Pitt.
Through two career appearances, Clifford is 4-for-4 for 175 yards and two touchdowns.
Not so fast
Penn State had three touchdown passes called back because of penalties, two on offensive holding and a third on offensive pass interference.
This comes on the heels of last week’s 64-yard touchdown catch by Miles Sanders coming back because of offensive pass interference.
“We’ve got to find a way to be more consistent,” Franklin said. “We took 21 points off the scoreboard today on penalties. We can’t make make those mistakes.”
While the Nittany Lions haven’t been as explosive in the first half as last year, Penn State has scored a touchdown on the first drive on each of its first three games.
Twice, however, Penn State has been aided by the opponent committing a penalty to allow the opening drive to continue.
In the opener against Appalachian State, a personal foul after Penn State was stopped on fourth down led to a 12-yard Trace McSorley touchdown four plays later.
On Saturday, Penn State (3-0) was forced to punt after a 56-yard touchdown pass from McSorley to KJ Hamler was called back because of a hold. Kent State was called for roughing the kicker on fourth down, and McSorley hit DeAndre Thompkins for a 40 yard touchdown.
Penn State has now won 16 consecutive home games, a streak which will be put to the test in two weeks when Ohio State comes to State College.
Penn State went unbeaten at Beaver Stadium in both 2016 and 2017, and coach James Franklin is now 22-1 at Beaver Stadium since he was hired before the 2015 season.
Penn State has gone 7-0 at Beaver Stadium seven times since joining the Big Ten: 1994, 1998, 2005, 2008, 2016 and 2017. Franklin’s lone home loss was to Michigan to close out the home slate in 2015.
Penn State is 23-3 in its last 26 games, the best span since the Nittany Lions went 37-3 from 1993 to 1996.
Streaking, part 2
McSorley threw two touchdowns — that actually counted — to extend his streak of games with a touchdown pass to 31, extending his own FBS high.
He also ran for three scores to account for five TDs. He became the first time a Big Ten player with two passing scores and three rushing TDs since Ohio State’s Braxton Miller in 2013.
Rolling it up
Thanks to big plays from George and backup tailback Jonathan Sutherland (a 69-yard run) in the final moments, Penn State rolled up 643 yards on offense (346 passing and 297 rushing).