Penn State’s 33-14 victory over Pitt was one to remember for a lot of reasons. So we decided to turn to our resident experts and ask them what player surprised them most on Saturday.
Who stepped up and played above expectations? Here’s what our writers at the game had to say:
John McGonigal: OT Andrew Nelson
Was it surprising to see senior tackle Andrew Nelson play well? Not necessarily. But it was a surprise to see him play at all.
Penn State offensive line coach Matt Limegrover said Thursday that Nelson was “very close” to returning to action, but it wasn’t clear that meant Saturday. Nelson — who missed the final eight games of the 2016 season with a significant knee injury — didn’t start against Pitt, but did play several series at right tackle. It was his 2017 debut and the first snaps since Oct. 8, 2016.
Of course, Nelson wasn’t healthy enough to play in the season opener against Akron. Well, sort of.
“Could I have probably played last week? Yeah, I probably could’ve,” Nelson said. “But I’ve got to give it to the training staff and Coach Limegrover and the coaches and their plan in place to ease me back in.”
It’ll be interesting to see if Nelson or Chasz Wright starts at right tackle next week against Georgia State. Regardless, it was still somewhat surprising to see Nelson on the field Saturday.
Ryne Gery: S Troy Apke
After making two starts in his first three seasons, the senior made a memorable play in his second start of the 2017 season. With Penn State leading Pitt 14-0 in the second quarter Saturday, Apke hauled in an interception on an overthrown pass by Pitt quarterback Max Browne.
It was the second career interception for Apke, who now has seven tackles on the season. The Mt. Lebanon, Pa., native — whose father played football at Pitt — added four tackles to help the Nittany Lions to the win.
Josh Moyer: TE Mike Gesicki
OK, OK. Gesicki entered the preseason as a strong candidate for the Mackey Award — so I’m not surprised by the fact he’s playing well. But I am surprised by the numbers he’s posting up. Gesicki had five receiving touchdowns during last year’s 14-game season. We’re two games into 2017 — and he already has four.
He’s now scored a touchdown in five straight games, dating back to last season. So, sure, we all know the senior — who could be playing on Sundays if he wanted to — is super talented. But the point is that I sure didn’t expect this kind of production. To me, that’s what’s surprising me the most.