Penn State Football

Penn State football rebounds, rallies to blow out upset-minded Buffalo 45-13

Franklin’s thoughts after 45-13 win over Buffalo

Penn State football coach James Franklin gives an opening statement after the 45-13 win over Buffalo.
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Penn State football coach James Franklin gives an opening statement after the 45-13 win over Buffalo.

The final score might not reflect it, but the Penn State Nittany Lions overcame an early upset scare Saturday night to defeat the Buffalo Bulls 45-13 at Beaver Stadium.

Penn State trailed 10-7 at halftime, while Buffalo dominated the time of possession battle in a game reminiscent of the day’s earlier near-upset between Army and Michigan. (U-M won in 2OT, 24-21.) But the Nittany Lions came out of halftime swinging and, in one quarter, went from a three-point deficit to a 22-point lead.

Sean Clifford finished 16-of-23 passing for 280 yards and four touchdowns, and he also added a team-leading 58 rushing yards.

Penn State is now 2-0 on the season, while Buffalo falls to 1-1.

Players of the game

CB John Reid and TE Pat Freiermuth: Reid gets a gold star for making the most important play of the game, which we’ve covered below. (Spoiler alert: It was a pick-six.) But Freiermuth was no slouch on offense either; he finished with a team-high eight catches for 100 receiving yards and two touchdowns.

When you come up with those big plays when it matters most, you’re usually a shoo-in for some postgame accolades. And Freiermuth did it in style; on his second TD catch, he reeled in a one-handed catch on fourth-and-2 — and then found some space and rumbled for the 28-yard score.

After suffering a helmet-to-helmet hit last week, his status wasn’t certain for this game. But he looked every bit of 100 percent Saturday.

Play of the game

CB John Reid’s pick-six: Reid’s obsession with game film paid off in a big way Saturday night. Early in the third quarter, trailing 10-7, Reid stepped in front of Buffalo QB Matt Myers’ intended pass to wideout Antonio Nunn, picked it off — and he was gone.

Reid sprinted 36 yards for the critical Nittany Lions’ TD, and the stadium shook to the tune of “Zombie Nation.” No play was more important to Penn State; Ricky Slade fumbled a few moments before and all the momentum was heading toward the Bulls’ side.

Reid’s play not only gave PSU the lead, it stopped the blue-and-white bleeding. It helped spark a big turnaround.

Biggest surprise

QB Sean Clifford really does have some wheels: One thing Clifford and James Franklin have repeatedly said this offseason is just how much faster and athletic Clifford has gotten since arriving on campus. In fact, Franklin admitted that, at first, he grew concerned that “speed” was the one box Clifford might leave unchecked.

Turns out, nope; that box might deserve two checks.

Clifford, who now reportedly boasts 4.5 speed, impressed fans and reporters alike in the third quarter when he faked a handoff and then cut left. He found an opening, hugged the left sideline and sprinted for a 58-yard gain. (He was caught from behind right before the end zone, but Noah Cain pounded it in soon thereafter.)

Surprisingly enough, Trace McSorley’s career long was a 51-yard gain.

Up next

vs. Pitt: After two weeks of non-Power 5 opponents, the Nittany Lions will take on last season’s ACC runner-up at noon Saturday at Beaver Stadium. James Franklin doesn’t like to refer to the game as a rivalry, but the Panthers will surely treat it that way. And both teams will undoubtedly be up for this one, considering it’s the final meeting between the two until ... well ... it might be a while.

Pitt (1-1) beat Ohio 20-10 Saturday and lost to Virginia 30-14 in Week 1. This isn’t the best Panthers team the Nittany Lions have faced — but it might be the fastest PSU team that Pitt has gone against since the series restarted in 2016.

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