Continue the journey through the rebirth of a college football titan
This is the second installment of We Are...Back! The 2016 Nittany Lions. In the first installment I talked about the mediocre preseason prediction of 39th in the country as levied by Athlon Sports. The ranking was precipitated by several reasons, including, but not limited to, the Lions losing their final four contests in 2015, and an unproven quarterback with zero collegiate starts under his belt.
The 2016 campaign began with a not-so-awe-inspiring home victory against Kent State. After struggling in the first half, the Lions pulled away in the 2nd to earn the victory. While a win is a win, the uncertainties heading into a week 2 clash with cross-state rival the University of Pittsburgh were abundant.
The very first meeting between the two Pennsylvania schools occurred way back in November, 1893, which saw a 32-0 Penn State victory. After the 2000 contest which ended up being another shutout by one team, this time Pittsburgh defeating the Lions 12-0, the series took a nearly 16 year hiatus until September 10, 2016, when the tilt was dubbed the Keystone Classic. This contest marked the beginning of a four game home-and-home series between the two squads, concluding in 2019.
The first half once again saw the Nittany Lions struggle mightily, falling behind by as many as 21 points late in the second quarter, and trailing the Panthers 28-14 at intermission.
The second half witnessed a furious Penn State charge, pulling within 3 points late in the 4th quarter. Unfortunately the comeback fell just short when PSU quarterback Trace McSorley threw an interception deep in Pitt territory to secure a 42-39 win for the home team.
Similar to their season opener against Kent State, there were both positives, and negatives, for James Franklin's squad. The positives included a four touchdown effort by Saquon Barkley, Trace McSorley throwing for 332 yards, and a fierce comeback, illustrating the never-give-up attitude the young Lions displayed. The negatives were for a second week in a row the Lions got off to a slow start, and despite a four touchdown effort by his star running back, Coach Franklin decided to go with the passing game during the final stages of his team's last drive, which ended in the McSorley interception, ending Penn State's hopes of earning the victory. At the end of the day, Penn State was 1-1 on the young season, with yet another in-state battle looming one week away.
In my next blog, find out if the Nittany Lions can exact some revenge for a previous season loss to the resurgent Temple Owls.