It was a soggy affair as Penn State opened up its 2015 home slate in Beaver Stadium against Buffalo. Coming off a stinging loss to Temple, the Nittany Lions had some highs and lows in their 27-14 victory.
The good news is PSU managed to put points on the board, find a running game and keep Christian Hackenberg off his back.
THE HIGH FIVE
TAKE THE W: While it certinly wasn't the type of walk-away victory Penn State has had in previous MAC matchups, in the end the Nittany Lions managed a decent win, revealing some progress and some weak points on which they must improve.
LINE UP: The retooled offensive line which shifted Andrew Nelson to LT, Brendan Mahon to RT and Derek Dowrey to LG managed to protect Christian Hackenberg and move the pocket. This even when Nelson was hurt and replaced by Paris Pamer. The biggest stat is that the line gave up no sacks after coughing up 10 last week.
RUNNING HOT: Another positive with the offensive line was its improvement opening up holes for the running game. While Akeel Lynch only managed 19 carries for 46 yards (2.4 YPC), Saquon Barkley rolled up 115 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries (9.6 YPC). Has PSU found it's lead horse in the ground game?
POCKET PICKS: PSU's defensive line, led by DE Carl Nassib (5 tackles, 4 solos) and DT Auston Johnson (9 tackles, 4 solo) managed six sacks, three of which were from Nassib, who also had an interception and caused two fumbles. All in all a much-improved performance from the defensive front.
TURN ON THE JETS: The dynamic Brandon Polk pucked up where he left off in the season opener, running for 45 yards and a touchdown on three carries.
The bad news is that Penn State has work to do in short order to prepare as Rutgers comes to town next weekend.
THE LOW FIVE
LINE LOSS: The injury to Nelson, although unspecified at this point, is concerning to a unit that already has issues. Palmer stepped back in for Nelson, but the line's going to need every boost it can get as it heads into conference play.
OPEN GAPS: The secondary continues to have issues at times, giving up 205 yards and two touchdowns to Buffalo despite a solid push up front from the defensive line, which forced some quick decisions by Buffalo QB Joe Licata.
PASSING LANE: While he deserves props for addressing the sack issue, at least in this game, Christian Hackenberg only went 14 for 27, hitting five receivers. It was a significant improvement over the Temple game, but his delivery had issues throughout the game. But, again, eliminating the sacks was instrumental. Also, to his credit, he had multiple passes dropped.
LYNCH PIN: Lynch simply hasn't found his groove yet, rushing for only 46 yards on 19 carries for 2.4 yards per carry. No doubt the coaches have to look closely at Barkley, who ran with determination.
NO SHOWS: While PSU claimed the attendance was 93,065, that number looked very inflated. It was expected that the Temple loss would keep folks away and the ugly weather made it an even less appealing game. But this wasn't a high point for "greatest show in college football." We'll see how the Rutgers "Stripe Out" turns out.