5 things I want to see from Penn State against Kent State
I must admit, I’m a big fan of lopsided matchups in favor of my Lions. I’ve been that way since way back when PSU was an independent, when one or two quality wins out of 11 games played could vault PSU into major bowl/national championship contention.
Come Saturday, I’ll have no problem taking a break from the high-wire act Trace McSorley and the Lions (2-0) have treated us to in so many games over the past few years. There’ll be plenty of time for that in a couple weeks.
I’ve made the trek from my home in North Carolina to State College (rather fortuitous vacation scheduling given Hurricane Florence) to see our Nits in person. Here are five things I’m expecting to see against the 5-TD underdog Golden Flashes (1-1).
Offensive players getting a grip
There have been dropped passes in both victories, and Ricky Slade lost 2 fumbles in 4 carries against Pitt.
“I was disappointed we put the ball on the ground,” Coach James Franklin admitted in his post-Pitt remarks. “We take as much pride in that as anyone in the country. We don’t do that. We don’t put on the ground.”
Franklin stressed in subsequent remarks that true freshman Slade is not in the doghouse and will have chances to redeem himself. Several receivers, of various experience levels, also will have that opportunity. Come noon Saturday, it’s time to start easing Coach’s mind.
4 quarters of defense
There can be no excuses against a 34.5-point dog, no room for 28-point quarters, no need for “clutch defense” to bail out a shaky half.
Penn State needs to build on its second-half domination of Pitt. With DT Kevin Givens and freshman LB Micah Parsons (last week’s leading tacklers) leading the way, the Lions should make life miserable for Kent State from start to finish. Anything less will be disappointing.
Miles and Miles and Miles
Out from under Saquon Barkley’s shadow, it is Miles Sanders’ time. He caused me just a moment’s pause in Week 1 because I thought he was bouncing every run outside in the first half against App State. He eased my mind in that game’s overtime and sold me completely against Pitt.
I’d love to see Franklin and OC Ricky Rahne pump Sanders’ confidence to the max by riding the former 5-star recruit early and often. Seven days after his first 100-yard college game, he can crank out his first 200-yarder if given the chance.
Get healthy, stay healthy
I’ve been hoping to see Tommy Stevens for two games now, but I’d just as soon he sit this one out if he is not unquestionably 100 percent. That sentiment holds throughout the roster. The starters should get their reps, secure victory, then rest.
Young guns and class during garbage time
Sean Clifford hoisted a beauty of a pass to rub salt in Pitt’s wound, his first college throw going for a 34-yard touchdown to conclude the scoring. He should get most of the fourth quarter this week if things go right. And Penn State shouldn’t feel bad about continuing to play its regular offense with Clifford, Slade and others getting extended mop-up playing time.
On the other hand, I wouldn’t be a big fan of Franklin challenging a late-game fumble call with a huge lead. Not this week.
I can give him a pass for challenging whether Slade was down before losing the ball with a 1 minute left in the game for two reasons:
- Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi spent game week trying to stir controversy where none existed. If he succeeded in getting under Franklin’s skin, that’s on him.
- Franklin may have wanted to save his young player from an ugly stat line. That might seem trite, but athletes look at their stats, it’s human nature, and anything that saps confidence should be avoided when possible.
That said, Penn Staters — particularly those of certain generations — take great pride in being classy, gracious hosts. I’m one of them, and I’ll be there, doing my part. We are …