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PSU over Appalachian State

Written by: on Monday, September 3rd, 2018. Follow William Albright on Twitter.


By BILL ALBRIGHT, Senior Writer


UNIVERSITY PARK — If Saturday’s season opener with Appalachian State was supposed to be a cupcake game for the Nittany Lions, someone forgot to tell the Mountaineers.

Battling for all they had, the underdog Mountaineers gave the Nittany Lions all they had before falling 45-38 in single overtime before 105,232 fans at Beaver Stadium.

“First thing I want to do, obviously, is give App State all the credit in the world,” said PSU head coach James Franklin to begin his post-game press conference. “I don’t know what’s in the water in Boone, North Carolina, but it seems like they’ve been doing this for a long time to whoever they play. It’s hard talking to a coach after a game like that. I just told him (App State head coach Scott Satterfield), I know you don’t want to hear this right now, but you guys do an unbelievable job.”

So what did Franklin see from his troops in a season opening game that wasn’t decided until the final play in overtime?

“First and foremost, I want to give App State all the credit in the world. They do a great job. I think they had a really good plan today,” said Franklin. “I thought overall our offense looked really good at some times and other times we just looked like a young team with inexperienced players making mistakes. There was one player each drive or each play that didn’t do what we needed to do consistently, and I think the same thing on defense.”

No less than two times did the Lions have a 14-point lead, but couldn’t hold onto it.

The Lions opened the game with a nice drive that resulted in a touchdown for a 7-0 lead, but Appy State stunned their hosts by returning the ensuing kickoff for a touchdown.

Later in the first quarter, the PSU defense stiffened to keep the Mountaineers out of the end zone, but they took a 10-7 lead on a 38-yard field goal by Chandler Satton.

However, the Appy lead was short-lived as the Lions drew even on a 32-yard field by freshman kicker Jake Pinegar with 12 seconds left in the first half.

Penn State opened a 24-10 lead in the third quarter, when McSorley carried the mail in himself again from 10 yards out to complete the Nittany Lions’ first drive of the new half.

Freshman Ricky Slade broke free from 27 yards out for his first career rushing touchdown late in the third  before the Mountaineers rallied to score four touchdowns in the fourth quarter while holding Penn State to just a pair of scores to force the overtime period.

In overtime, a rushing touchdown from Miles Sanders and an interception in the end zone by Amani Oruwariye secured the thrilling 45-38 overtime victory for the Lions in front of 105,232 fans. It was the largest crowd for a Penn State season opener since 2008.

Setting the stage for the game-winner.

Trailing by a touchdown with 1 minute, 39 seconds to go in regulation, quarterback Trace McSorley engineered a touchdown drive to tie the game a38-all and force the overtime.

Penn State (1-0) went on offense first and handed the ball to Sanders four consecutive times, Sanders crossing the goal line from four yards out for the touchdown.

On its only possession of OT, Appalachian State threatened, converting a fourth-and-1 to earn a fresh set of downs at the 15-yard line. But on the next play, Oruwariye picked Zac Thomas’ first-down pass off in the back of the end zone to end the game. This is the third consecutive season opener Oruwariye has pulled in an interception.

“I didn’t see it,” said Franklin. “There was so much noise going on in the headset I didn’t know if it was an incomplete pass. There was confusion on the headset, but then the way the fans reacted and all our players started running on the field I said, we must’ve intercepted it I guess. I’ll say two things. We have to be better in coverage. They were running two times, where they ran what we call the Big Box, which is the inside receiver run’s a fade. The first one we didn’t do a good job of covering it. The second time, we probably didn’t make the call that we would have wanted to make in that situation that put our safety in a tough position in that play. You have to give them credit.”

Now 1-0, the Lions will travel to Heinz Field Saturday for their huge intrastate game wit the Pitt Panthers.

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