The Nittany Lions left no doubt in their season opener, throttling Akron 52-0 on Saturday afternoon at Beaver Stadium.
A few first-quarter mistakes aside, Penn State’s first game couldn’t have gone smoother. Saquon Barkley and Trace McSorley picked apart the Zips, the Nittany Lions’ defense had zero trouble bottling up Akron, and the Nittany Lions’ special teams even chipped in.
In front of an announced crowd of 101,684, the Nittany Lions outgained the Zips 568 to 159.
Player of the game
Saquon Barkley: It’s an easy pick, sure. But the right pick is sometimes the easy pick, and Barkley was the guy on Saturday. The human highlight reel started his Heisman Trophy campaign off in style, rushing for 172 yards and two touchdowns on 14 carries. And he didn’t even touch the ball on Penn State’s first nine plays. But once he did, as always and as expected, Barkley made the difference. His 17-yard catch — forcing five missed tackles and hurdling a Zip — set up Penn State’s first offensive touchdown. His 80-yard run probably should’ve been reviewed and dubbed an 87-yard score, but nonetheless it paved the way for McSorley’s 4-yard touchdown. And later in the first half, Barkley found the end zone a couple of times himself. With 13.29 yards per touch (including receptions), Barkley gave the Beaver Stadium fans what they wanted in a rainy blowout.
Barkley’s 80-yard run: There’s a lot to choose here. But in a game that Penn State was supposed to win handily, it was Barkley’s dazzling dash toward the end zone that sealed it. Penn State already led 14-0. The Nittany Lions were on their way to really separating themselves from the Zips. But Barkley’s run ensured that the rout was on.
DL Ryan Buchholz: The defensive lineman was all over the place. Buchholz had a forced fumble in the first quarter and tallied 1.5 tackles for loss, one sack and four total tackles. Buchholz didn’t start, but he was a key part of a Penn State front-four that disrupted Akron’s backfield all day long. The redshirt sophomore, who had 4.5 tackles for loss in 2016, got off to an impeccable start.
Punt return TD: Amani Oruwariye’s interception was a close second — and Barkley breaking ankles is up there, too — but Thompkins’ touchdown return is worthy of a few replays. With Akron’s coverage team closing in, it was a little daring on Thompkins’ part to even attempt a return. But once he got the edge, the speedy wideout was gone. Gliding up toward the middle of the field, Thompkins dusted Akron punter Nick Gasser to close out the 61-yard score. Believe it or not, it was Penn State’s first punt return touchdown since 2008 when Derrick Williams was still wowing Nittany Lion fans. That was Thompkins’ job on Saturday, and he succeeded.
Pitt week is here: Following an easy Week 1 win, the Nittany Lions will look to avenge their 42-39 loss to the Panthers. After holding on againstYoungstown State, new quarterback Max Browne and the rest of the Panthers look to make it two in a row next week at Beaver Stadium. Penn State is a 19-point favorite.