Rapid Reaction: Desperate Penn State gets first win
Final: Penn State 27, Buffalo 14
Telling stat: Buffalo 2.1 yards per carry
The Penn State defense held strong and dominated the ground game. Anthone Taylor had his moments but the Lions bottled up Joe Licate and Jordan Johnson to make life difficult for the Bulls. Seven sacks of Licate helped that total, but the Lions were still solid up front, which made Penn State’s slim early lead a bit more comfortable.
Key play: Christian Hackenberg 5-yard TD pass to DaeSean Hamilton
If there was ever a guy in need of some confidence, it was Hackenberg. His first touchdown pass came in timely fashion, too. The Lions were only up 13-7 in the fourth quarter and Hackenberg finishing that drive with a score. That gave Penn State the breathing room it needed, and temporarily, it gave the Lions signal-caller a little bit less pressure.
-NO SACKS ALLOWED
If you would’ve asked me how many sacks Penn State would let up on Saturday, I would’ve told you at least half a dozen. Instead, the Lions did the impossible. To not allow a single sack after last week’s 10-sack embarrassment was nothing short of incredible. Penn State did that by moving Andrew Nelson into the starting spot at left tackle and moving Brandan Mahon from guard to right tackle. Whatever happened worked for the Lions. Nelson did come out with an injury, which moved Palmer back into the lineup. James Franklin has to be all sorts of relieved.
-Carl Nassib was everywhere
Three tackles for loss and an interception is a pretty solid day for the former walk-on. The PSU defensive end provided a major lift on a day where big plays were tough to come by. Franklin has been hyping him as an All-Big Ten candidate. If Saturday was any indication, he’s going to wreak all sorts of havoc playing alongside Austin Johnson and Anthony Zettel, especially if Zettel keeps tipping passes to him.
What it means: The Lions aren’t afraid to run
One of the big questions coming into Saturday was whether or not Franklin was going to put more emphasis on the run. He did exactly that. Lynch surpassed last week’s 10-carry total early in the second quarter, though he wasn’t the Lions’ most effective runner. Freshman Saquon Barkley stole the show with his 115 yards rushing on 12 carries, most of which came in the second half. It can’t all fall on Hackenberg, so to see some changes made is a positive sign.
What’s next: vs. Rutgers
Big Ten play starts a little early for the Lions. At the very least, Penn State showed that it can make some adjustments and get some points on the board. Penn State will still have to be better against actual Big Ten athletes, but Saturday showed that the Week 1 issues aren’t completely indicative of how this team will perform every game.