Harvey Levine/FOS

Penn State-Buffalo Game Breakdown

The good, the bad and the soggy as the Nittany Lions topped the Bulls in the 2015 home opener.

It was wet. It was cool. The offense took a while to get going and sustained a key injury.

But Penn State’s home opener vs. Buffalo Saturday also resulted in something else: a win.

Coming off an embarrassing 27-10 loss at Temple, the Nittany Lions pulled away from the Bulls in the second half for a 27-14 victory that — by the end of the game, at least — was not really that close.

Here is our take on what went down at soggy Beaver Stadium.

MAN OF THE HOUR: Nittany Lion senior DE Carl Nassib was unreal, with three sacks, two forced fumbles and an interception. Looks like a star in the making.

CLOSE SECOND: Rookie running back Saquon Barkley sure seems like the real deal. He ran around, through and even over Buffalo defenders on the way to 115 yards and a score.

CLOSE THIRD: DT Austin Johnson had nine tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks. We can officially stop with the beaten-to-death he’s-being-overlooked story line.

TURNING POINT: With PSU leading 13-7 in the fourth quarter, Barkley broke a 33-yard run and followed that with a 17-yard bolt on which he hurdled a defender. The Lions scored two plays later (Christian Hackenberg passed to DaeSean Hamilton) and really that was that.

SOLID STRATEGY: Lion coach James Franklin said going in he was committed to running the ball. He was good on his word. State had 39 carries for 200 yards, giving the backs and O-line some much-needed confidence.

NUMBERS GAME: After giving up 10 sacks vs. Temple, the Lions did not allow any vs. Buffalo. This even though new starting left tackle Andrew Nelson was knocked out of the game with an unspecified left knee injury.

SPECIAL DELIVERY: What in the name of O.J. McDuffie is going on here? Penn State with serious return threats? Redshirt freshman DeAndre Thompkins’ 68-yard punt return was PSU’s longest since 2008.  Classmate Nick Scott’s 58-yard kickoff return was the Lions’ longest since 2011.

HIDDEN HERO: After struggling as the starting LT vs. Temple, juco transfer Paris Palmer was benched in a reorganization that saw Nelson move from RT to LT. But Palmer replaced the injured Nelson in the second half and played much better. Nice to see.

WHAT'S UP WITH?

• TE Mike Gesicki dropping passes. He had a career-high three grabs for 14 yards. But he dropped just as many, including two plays that could have gone for scores. Did not look at all like the talented receiver we saw in the preseason.

• The punting game. Danny Pasquariello averaged a so-so 38.5 yards per kick. One was a 55-yarder. But the other two were 33 and 27 yards, and none were downed inside the 20.

• Hamilton not having a good feel for where he was on the field. On the game’s first drive, the Lions faced a fourth-and-6 from the Buffalo 38. They went for it and Hackenberg hit Hamilton — for a four-yard gain.

• Buffalo and all of those chop blocks. We counted three. That’s not cool.

• The Bulls being flagged 14 times. Their 107 penalty yards are the most by a PSU opponent since Florida State had 129 in the 2006 Orange Bowl.

LOST IN THE SHUFFLE: Jason Cabinda moved into the Mike LB spot to replace the injured Nyeem Wartman-White and the defense did a good job with him directing things. He had six tackles.

DID YOU NOTICE?

• The new starting O-line featured Nelson at LT, Derek Dowry at LG, Angelo Mangiro at C, Brian Gaia at RG and Brendan Mahon at RT.

• With Cabinda moving to Mike, redshirt freshman Troy Reeder replaced him at Will and came through with seven tackles. Von Walker replaced the injured Brandon Bell at Sam and had one stop. PSU played a lot of nickel and dime when Walker left the field.

• Mark Allen was replaced at PR after two tries, one that resulted in no gain and one that rolled out of bounds. Thompkins took over and had four returns for 71 yards.

• Scott replaced Koa Farmer at KR and had the one try for 58 yards. Franklin indicated Farmer was banged up vs. Temple.

UNANSWERED QUESTION: Will Penn State continue to improve when Rutgers visits next week?


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