Penn State logged its second rout in as many weeks — but a few underlying issues persisted in the Nittany Lions’ 63-10 win over Kent State on Saturday afternoon at Beaver Stadium.
Heisman Trophy candidate Trace McSorley accounted for 283 total yards (229 passing, 54 rushing) and 5 touchdowns. McSorley completed 11 of 22 passes, and his stat line would have been better if not for his receivers dropping perfectly fine passes. One mistake, the ball slipping through Miles Sanders’ hands in the flat, led to McSorley’s first interception of the young season.
Kent State added three points as a result of the turnover, cutting the Nittany Lions’ advantage to 21-10 with less than a minute to go in the first half. But a 52-yard kickoff return by KJ Hamler put McSorley and Penn State’s offense in position to score again, taking a 28-10 lead into the break.
The Nittany Lions didn’t come close to forfeiting that lead. Penn State racked up 667 yards of offense to Kent State’s 221, and Brent Pry’s defense tallied 15 tackles for loss.
But between the drops and penalties — offensive fouls negated a pair of Penn State touchdowns, and an inexperienced defensive line extended Kent State’s first-quarter touchdown drive — James Franklin’s team has plenty to clean up with its Sept. 29 meeting with Ohio State looming.
Player of the game
Trace McSorley: The fifth-year quarterback now owns Penn State’s all-time record for rushing touchdowns by a signal-caller, surpassing Michael Robinson. He is also the first Penn State quarterback since at least 1967 with multiple three-touchdown games in their career.
When his receivers dropped passes, McSorley did it himself. This was an easy pick.
DeAndre’s dive: Last week, it was DeAndre Thompkins who let McSorley down on a few occasions, dropping three passes, including a would-be touchdown. He didn’t let this one slip through his hands.
On Penn State’s first series, Thompkins dusted Kent State safety Juantez McRae and laid out in the north end zone to haul in McSorley’s heave. It was an impressive catch, one that ought to get SportsCenter Top-10 consideration.
After back-to-back weeks without a catch — after essentially being demoted, as Brandon Polk started over him — Thompkins had to cherish that scoring snag.
Cam Brown: Defensive ends Shareef Miller and Yetur Gross-Matos terrorized Kent State’s tackles, but Brown was a constant presence.
The starting SAM linebacker — a 6-foot-5, 223-pound ball of potential — led the Nittany Lions with 7 tackles. Three of them were solo stops and two came in the backfield. He had just eight tackles the past two games combined.
Brown’s capacity to break out took a backseat this offseason with so much attention focused on Penn State’s situation at MIKE linebacker. After Saturday’s performance, he earned recognition.
The Big Ten slate: Well, kind of. Illinois hasn’t looked like a Power 5-caliber club recently. The Illini almost lost to Kent State in Week 1, narrowly edging the Golden Flashes 31-24 at home. Last weekend, Lovie Smith’s squad was less than convincing again, this time locked in a 10-point game with Western Illinois before modestly pulling away in the fourth quarter. Over the last three years, Illinois owns a 4-22 record against Big Ten opponents. Expect Penn State to be heavy favorites as it travels to Champaign for a 9 p.m. Friday night tilt.