STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) – Trace McSorley threw for 209 yards and two touchdowns, and Saquon Barkley ran for another score to lift Penn State over Kent State 33-13 in the season openers for both teams on Saturday.
Barkley finished with 105 yards rushing, and Tyler Davis chipped in two field goals for the Nittany Lions. A 29-yard field goal in the second quarter gave Penn State the lead for good.
“We’re happy with the win,” Penn State coach James Franklin said. “I think we could’ve been cleaner, it wasn’t as clean as we would’ve liked it to be.”
Amani Oruwariye returned an interception for a score in the third quarter, and Mike Gesicki hauled in a touchdown pass with less than two minutes left to pad the lead in a game that was close for much of the afternoon. Penn State led 16-13 at halftime.
DaeSean Hamilton caught a first-quarter touchdown pass from McSorley who also ran for 47 yards in his first start.
“The first two drives we kind of got stalled out,” McSorley said. “The third drive we were able to get some first downs, push the ball down the field a little bit. I think that was actually the drive we ended up scoring on, too. That was where we finally started feeling thinks clicking. The momentum started building.”
Shane Hynes kicked two field goals for Kent State, and Elcee Refuge returned a McSorley fumble for a touchdown in the second quarter.
KENT STATE: The Golden Flashes haven’t had much going for them offensively in quite a while, but their defense remains stout enough to give them hope.
Kent State’s front seven kept the game within reach by limiting Barkley’s running room early. Vaunted pass-rusher Terence Waugh killed a big wave of Penn State momentum midway through the second quarter when he hammered McSorley from his blindside, forcing a fumble that Refuge returned for a touchdown to tie the game 13-13. If Waugh can keep making plays, the Golden Flashes will have chances to turn games around.
PENN STATE: A coordinator change doesn’t guarantee immediate success. Saturday’s sluggish start and uneven performance shows Joe Moorhead’s offense will need more time for all its parts to get on the same page.
And the sooner the better as games loom against No. 7 Michigan, No. 6 Ohio State, and Maryland, teams that hung at least 52 points on its opponents in their openers. A bunch of missed tackles against Kent State is further evidence that Penn State’s offense will have to pull more weight than it has in the two previous years when elite defenses could bail it out.
Kent State will try to snap its six-game losing streak when it hosts FCS foe North Carolina A&T next Saturday.
Penn State and Pittsburgh will renew a long-dormant rivalry when the Nittany Lions travel to Heinz Field next Saturday for the first game in a home-and-home series. Penn State leads the series 50-42-4 and has won seven of the last eight. Pittsburgh won the last meeting 12-0 in 2000.
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