Just as I alluded to more than a few times in my Friday preview, Buffalo is no Idaho. Not even close. Perhaps Penn State failed to get the memo considering how ugly that first half was. Lucky for us, we have coaches that can go into that locker room at halftime and perform some kind of voodoo on unsuspecting opponents. If Trace McSorley was the master at slinging second-half magic, then we now know that at the very least, Sean Clifford has that capability as well. So while the rest of you bicker over sub-par O-Lines and slow starts, I’ll be here to chalk up the positive out of blasting through the gate when it mattered most to pull off the 45-13 win.
Consider me stubborn if you want, but I’m a firm believer that what went down during the first 30 minutes under the lights was a little bit of an overblown ego on our part and a whole lot of Buffalo throwing everything they could at us and then some. Kudos to them for giving it all they had but all they had against us was only good enough for one half and 13 points. After the half, it was total domination. In fact, on a night when Buffalo dared our new QB to beat them, Clifford broke their back and made them pay. Not only that but for all the angst about our non-existent running game this past Saturday, it was the O-Line that pass protected their tails off giving Clifford all the time in the world to guide his squad back with precision and one long run that reminded us of his predecessor.
For all the love I’ve shown to #14 though, he is not my choice for this week’s Game Ball, as worthy as he may be. Nope, that belongs to someone on the defense, and not so much for what they showed while the going was good but for holding it all together while it was falling apart. Micah Parsons, please step up. Penn State may not have gotten that memo early on but ‘Stix City’ was the lone exception and a bona fide stud from the jump.
He didn’t lead the team in tackles (although ten and two for loss is a nice round number), or cause any highlight reel turnovers, but in that first half he stacked that downtrodden D upon his shoulders, covered sideline to sideline like he was manning a soccer net, and was the main reason that for all the yards Buffalo could muster, they could only score a measly 10 points. Without his prowess and All-American potential on full display, who knows how much more they could have gotten away with before halftime adjustments eventually flipped the script.
John Reid sparked the momentum shift with his smooth as silk 39-yard pick-six and tight end Pat Frieirmuth was way too much of a beast to handle once that passing game began to click. Jahan Dotson traded places with KJ as Clifford’s go-to receiver, and mark my words, that will spell a double-dose of trouble down the road for Big Ten foes. Tariq Castro-Fields more than held his own as Buffalo tried all night to play keep away from Reid, and Cam Brown was welcomed back with a vengeance. Enough good things can’t be said about transfer kicker Jordan Stout who was perfect once again on booming kickoffs deep into the end zone, and here’s looking at you Noah Cain, one of the few bright spots in an otherwise stagnant run game.
The first half wasn’t pretty by any means but in the end, it was another dominating win to start the season. It was just enough to move Penn State up two spots in the polls as they now sit at lucky No. 13 with (guess who) on deck? It’s the 100th edition of Penn State vs. Pitt at high noon in Happy Valley and the smack talk has already started. It’s what they do best these days. Just one more round and we can put the kittens to sleep for a long siesta!