STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- After surrendering 10 sacks a week ago, the Nittany Lions’ offense didn’t allow a single one during Saturday’s 27-14 win over Buffalo.
But the offense was still far from perfect.
Penn State stuck to a conservative game plan and, heading into the fourth quarter, averaged less than 3.8 yards a play. Two of the offense’s three scoring drives at that point had also come on drives that started at the 12- and 24-yard lines.
Dropped passes, runs that went nowhere and questionable play-calling defined PSU’s first three quarters in what was then a 13-7 game. The Lions’ home crowd even booed at the team several times. But it finally broke through in the fourth.
Freshman running back Saquon Barkley sparked the offense with eight runs for 101 yards just in the final quarter. (He finished with 12 runs for 115 yards.) Christian Hackenberg also connected on his longest pass of the day in the fourth, a 38-yard completion to Chris Godwin.
The questions about this offense will persist after the win. But, in the end, for Penn State, at least it was a win.
What the win means for Penn State: Let's not get ahead of ourselves here. The opponent was Buffalo, not Ohio State. A win certainly helps the Lions, but the same question marks from last week remain. The linebackers, two of whom made their first- and second-career starts, looked good. The defense looked great. But the offense stumbled in every category and didn’t show any signs of life until the fourth quarter.
What the loss means for Buffalo: No, the Bulls didn’t win. But they hung in for three quarters, and this has to be seen as a positive moving forward -- especially with opponents such as Florida Atlantic on the horizon. The Bulls came in as 17-point underdogs, and it still looked as if they had a shot at winning after 45 minutes.
Player of the game: Penn State DE Carl Nassib. Defensive coordinator Bob Shoop said, before the season ,that Nassib was a name to watch. Turns out he was right. Nassib finished with three sacks, one interception and two forced fumbles. Nassib was dominant.
Unsung hero: PR DeAndre Thompkins. He didn’t play much but, when he did, he helped change the course of the game. Thompkins flashed his speed and ran back a punt in the second quarter for 58 yards until he was tripped up by the punter. That set up PSU’s first TD – on a 24-yard drive – that likely doesn’t happen without Thompkins. PSU only led 13-7 heading into the fourth quarter, so that score was big.
Top play: In the second quarter, defensive tackle Anthony Zettel charged through the offensive line and deflected a Buffalo pass into the air. Defensive end Carl Nassib grabbed that tip and returned it 10 yards to the Buffalo 12. PSU needed a short field to get any points, and it at least came away with a field goal to give it a two-possession lead, 10-0. That was invaluable early on.
Injury report: Left tackle Andrew Nelson, arguably the Nittany Lions’ top offensive lineman, was injured on the last play in the first half. He was helped off the field and appeared to be in a lot of pain. He did not return. Stay tuned for updates on that front.