Highs and Lows: Georgia State

David Eckert, BWI Staff
Blue White Illustrated

The Nittany Lions earned a 56-0 shutout over Georgia State Saturday night at Beaver Stadium, keeping in tact an unbeaten start to the 2017 season. Let's take a look at the highs and lows from the game, here!


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Quarterback Trace McSorley erased all memory of his up-and-down performance a week ago as he met little resistance from the Georgia State secondary. McSorley connected on 18 of his 23 passes for 309 yards. As is often the case, McSorley contributed with his legs as well, carrying the ball three times for 24 yards and a score. Overall, he achieved a passer rating of 248.5, the second highest of his career, and led the Nittany Lions to a dominating victory over the Panthers.


Flushed out of the pocket, Trace McSorley made like a baseball shortstop and threw an off-balance pass across his body to Saquon Barkley in the flat. From there, the Heisman hopeful running back went to work. Barkley made one Georgia State defender miss with a juke move before outrunning everyone on his way to the end zone for an 85-yard touchdown.


Barkley’s second explosive play in the passing game came on Penn State’s very next offensive snap. Barkley hauled in a perfectly timed pass from McSorley and turned it into a gain of 44 yards. Barkley finished with 142 yards through the air and averaged 35.5 yard per catch.


McSorley experienced a near-miss late in the first quarter when he tried to reach DeAndre Thompkins deep over the middle of the field. Instead, he found a member of the Georgia State secondary. Ultimately, though, the ball fell harmlessly to the ground as the defender failed to make McSorley pay for the poor decision despite getting two hands on the ball.


On a night when Barkley’s playmaking ability was on full display in the passing game, one of his understudies stole the show on the ground. Miles Sanders took a handoff designed to go up the middle, but when Georgia State clogged that lane, Sanders bounced it outside and took off for a 29-yard touchdown rush to give the Nittany Lions a 28-0 lead with under nine minutes to go in the first half.


The offensive fireworks didn’t end when the first team unit exited the game. Saeed Blacknall scored Penn State’s seventh touchdown of the night when he made an impressive reception in the back of the end zone, snagging a Tommy Stevens pass over his left shoulder before falling to the ground for the score.


On a day when the Nittany Lion receivers faced very little adversity, Brandon Polk produced one of the only mistakes. On second down late in the third quarter, Polk failed to bring in a Tommy Stevens pass on a crossing pattern. Penn State’s drive would later stall as the Nittany Lions were forced to punt.


Penn State’s defense set the tone in the second half when Shaka Toney came around the edge and Manny Bowen broke through on a blitz to combine for a sack and force a fumble. Kevin Givens fell on the pigskin for the Nittany Lions and once again gave the Penn State offense excellent field position at its own 45-yard line.


Marcus Allen was visibly annoyed after being called for pass interference midway through the second quarter. He took those frustrations out later in the drive on Georgia State’s Tamir Jones, who caught a screen pass on the right sideline and appeared in good position to pick up a chunk of yards before Allen came flying over from the left to knock Jones out of bounds with a vicious hit.


With Trace McSorley taking a snap from inside the Penn State end zone, Saquon Barkley saved the Nittany Lions from a potential disaster. The running back threw his body into a Georgia State defender coming around the edge unopposed with a safety on his mind. McSorley went on to complete a 20-yard pass to Mike Gesicki down the left sideline and earn the Nittany Lions a first down.


Marcus Allen’s first career interception is sure to be a memorable one. With Georgia State putting together a drive into Penn State territory, Allen high-pointed a pass into the flat and pulled it down to stop the Panthers in their tracks. Allen wasn’t done there, though. The senior safety returned the interception 50 yards to the Georgia State 25-yard line, giving the offense a short field to work with.


Of its nine kickoff opportunities, Penn State only gave the Panthers the opportunity to return on two occasions. All six of Tyler Davis’ kicks went for touchbacks. In reserve, Alex Barbir was penalized once for placing one of his kicks out of bounds, but held Georgia State to just 34 combined return yards on two other kicks as he completed a solid night for the Nittany Lions on special teams.


Tyler Davis has gotten off to a relatively shaky start to the season after making over 90 percent of his kicks in 2016. Davis hooked a kick late in the second half wide to the left, missing his second of four field goal attempts early on this year.


DeAndre Thompkins once again proved elusive in the return game. Fielding a third quarter punt near his own 25 yard-line, Thompkins weaved through a number of defenders on his way to a 26-yard


James Franklin’s decision to reach deep down the depth chart on the defensive line paid dividends. In addition to the obvious benefit in the way of experience, redshirt freshman Daniel Joseph produced some tangible on-field benefits, coming up with a strip sack early in the third quarter. True freshman defensive end Yetur Gross-Matos recovered the ball to secure Penn State’s fifth turnover of the night.


Under heavy pressure on third down, McSorley tossed an ill-advised desperation pass down the field that appeared to be intercepted by a member of the Panther secondary. Upon review, the call was overturned and Penn State punted, sparing McSorley of the poor outcome.


Following a subpar performance against Pitt a week ago, Trace McSorley used Penn State’s first drive to set the record straight. He led the Nittany Lions right down the field, completing all six of his passes on the drive for a total of 56 yards. McSorley found Tommy Stevens for a 10-yard touchdown to close it out and give the Nittany Lions an early 7-0 lead.

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