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Penn State wasted no time to show its offensive prowess in the 99th edition of Pitt vs. Penn State Saturday night, with senior quarterback Trace McSorley finding junior tight end Jonathan Holland for a 22-yard gain on the Nittany Lions second play. Just two plays later, first-year wideout KJ Hamler took a handoff 32 yards down the left sideline for the first touchdown of the game, putting Penn State up 7-0.
Now facing a touchdown deficit, the Panthers returned to their week-one form on drive number two. First-year receiver Shocky Jacque-Louis provided the Pitt offense with good field position on the first play by rushing 38 yards to the opposing 37-yard line. From there, the Panthers steadily drove downfield until senior running back Qadree Ollison punched it in from 13 yards out.
But for the second straight week, sophomore kicker Alex Kessman and the field goal unit struggled on the extra point. A muffed snap broke up the point after, allowing Penn State to maintain its 7-6 lead.
After one quarter of back and forth, the Pitt running game looked impressive with 113 yards. Pickett and the passing attack, however, had yet to pick up a single yard.
Starting from their own four-yard line, Pitt’s offense continued a night-long trend — breakaway gains on the first play. The Panther offensive line opened up another generous hole for Ollison, and the senior ran for 63 yards before the defense could catch up with him. Pitt gained 16 more yards from there, setting up Kessman for a 35-yard field goal attempt, which he missed.
The next Penn State drive wouldn’t last long, with Pitt senior linebacker Quintin Wirginis meeting first-year running back Ricky Slade with a hard hit, causing a fumble which sophomore defensive end Rashad Weaver recovered for Pitt.
Ollison rattled off four straight carries to the PSU eight-yard line, but the offense eventually faced a fourth and goal situation from the four-yard line. The Panthers went for the touchdown but failed, keeping the deficit at 7-6.
Hamler had his second touchdown of the night for Penn State on a 19-yard pass from McSorley with less than 30 seconds left in the half. Penn State went into the locker room with a 14-6 lead.