PITTSBURGH (AP) – Trace McSorley threw for two touchdowns and ran for another as No. 13 Penn State pulled away for a 51-6 victory over sloppy Pittsburgh on Saturday night.
KJ Hamler ran 32 yards for a score and hauled in a 14-yard touchdown pass from McSorley as the Nittany Lions (2-0) bounced back from an opening week scare against Appalachian State to dominate their 99th meeting with the Panthers (1-1). McSorley finished 14 of 30 for 145 yards in the rain at soggy Heinz Field.
Penn State running back Miles Sanders ran for 118 yards, and DeAndre Thompson returned a punt 39 yards for a touchdown.
That was more than enough to beat Pitt in what could be the Nittany Lions’ last trip to Pittsburgh for the foreseeable future. There are no plans for the rivalry to continue beyond next year’s game at Beaver Stadium.
Considering how things went in the second half that might not be a bad thing for either side. Penn State’s margin of victory was the third-largest by either team in a series that dates to 1893. The chants of “We Are … Penn State” rang throughout the stadium in the final minutes.
Pitt senior Qadree Ollison ran for 119 yards and a 13-yard score for Pitt, but went nowhere after halftime. Neither did the Panthers. Sophomore quarterback Kenny Pickett struggled in the steady rain, completing just 9 of 18 passes for 55 yards. Pickett also ran for 30 yards, but spent most of the night under heavy pressure. He was sacked four times and took a handful of jarring hits when he was able to scramble for positive yardage.
The blowout finish seemed unlikely late in the first half. Penn State led just 7-6 with a minute to go before Pitt began self-destructing. Punter Kirk Christodoulou dropped a snap and the Nittany Lions took over in Pitt territory. McSorley needed just three plays to find Hamler to put the Nittany Lions up 14-6 at the break.
It was all Penn State after that. McSorley scored on a 4-yard touchdown run early in the third quarter, Pickett was sacked for a safety minutes later, and when Thompson took a punt at the 39 and veered to his left to race untouched to the end zone, the Nittany Lions were firmly in control.
Pitt did plenty to help Penn State pull away. The Panthers were flagged 14 times for 116 yards – including an unsportsmanlike call on head coach Pat Narduzzi – turned it over three times and provided no response when the Nittany Lions got serious.
Penn State: The Nittany Lions have found a capable replacement for Saquon Barkley. Sanders spent two years patiently waiting for his turn and he seems more than equal to the task. His numbers would have been even more impressive if not for an illegal block in the back in the first half that nullified a significant chunk of what would have been an 80-yard gain.
Pitt: For all of Pickett’s moxie, the sophomore quarterback is going to need receivers who can get open to take some of the pressure off the running game. He completed just two passes – for 17 yards – to wide receivers through three quarters. The rest came in garbage time.
The Nittany Lions slid three spot last week after needing overtime to escape Appalachian State. They could possibly tick back up a bit for the way they completely shut down Pitt in the second half.
Penn State: Nittany Lions host Kent State next Saturday.
Pitt: Opens ACC play next Saturday when Georgia Tech visits.
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