It’s a historic rivalry so only fitting to have a historic loss. Penn State’s 39 points against Pitt were the most ever for a Penn State team on the losing end. It wasn’t James Franklin’s much needed signature win, but it was a game that foreshadows future success.
Other than a double OT loss to #13 Ohio State in 2014, Franklin’s teams have been mostly blown out in big games. This time they were able to compete. Despite turning the ball over 4 times, including a gut wrenching Trace McSorley interception to end the game, Penn State had a chance to win. Play that game ten times I think they could win half of them, play it in Beaver Stadium I’d give them 75%.
Obviously the defense is an issue. It was thin entering the season and it just failed its first test. Jason Cabinda missed the game with a cast on his left hand. Evan Schwan was still banged up from Kent State, Brandon Bell went to the locker room then came back in. Kevin Givens had to exit for the second consecutive game. It all added up to 341 yards rushing and a 28-7 Pitt lead in the second quarter.
Despite the slow start the lions came alive in the second half and showed the kind of heart we’ve been waiting to see. Trace McSorley threw for 332 yards and a touchdown. Saquon Barkley had a career high 5 total touchdowns in the game.
Yes they came out flat in a big spot on the road, but they answered and scored…. a lot. This game was a maturation process for the new Penn State offense. It’s great to have a strong defense, but what good has that defense done against the elite teams in the Big Ten. You want to compete, you want to get talked about, you better be able to score points.
It’s year three under Franklin and I think we finally got a real look at his vision. We’ve seen the recruiting numbers, this was the first time we’ve seen something close to results. Yes it ended in a loss, but I’d tongue in cheek call it a “signature” one, a “signature loss” that should signal future signature wins.