Georgia State-Penn State notes
Backup QB Stevens shines
UNIVERSITY PARK — Versatile backup quarterback Tommy Stevens made plays in a couple of categories Saturday night. Stevens first appeared on the stat-sheet with a ten-yard touchdown catch from quarterback Trace McSorley to cap an opening eight play, 63-yard drive and move the Nittany Lions ahead 7-0.
“I really enjoy my role,” Stevens said. “I happy to help out in any way that I can.”
Stevens would record one more catch for nine yards in the third quarter before replacing McSorley at quarterback.
The redshirt sophomore is familiar taking reps at spots other than under center as Stevens was also the beneficiary of a touchdown run from the halfback position in the season opener against Akron.
“Maybe I’m a little better athlete than I thought I was,” Stevens said. “From the very beginning I wasn’t expecting to take carries out of the backfield and take carries away from [Barkley]. I’m just happy with my role.”
Stevens needed no time at all to warm up his arm as his first pass was completed 35 yards downfield to Saeed Blacknall for the game’s seventh touchdown. The reception was the first touchdown Blacknall has scored since last year’s Big Ten Championship.
“I knew Saeed was going to have some access to be able to work,” Stevens said. “I snapped the ball, was able to identify what they were in. I tried to put it in a spot where he could get it, and he made a great play.”
Stevens completed only one more pass for eight yards but also added a 12-yard rush to his total in the fourth that was ended when he ran into the referee and had his helmet pop off.
Allen’s first pick
Senior safety Marcus Allen finally recorded the first interception of his illustrious career. The 11th all-time leading tackler in Penn State history picked off Georgia State’s Conner Manning in the second quarter at Penn State’s own 25.
“I’m just happy, ecstatic,” Allen said. “I spoke it into existence. Two days before the game I said, ‘Dad, I promise you I’m going to get an interception before I leave Penn State.’ It came. It feels like my birthday.”
“You all don’t understand how much work I’ve been putting in. Just working with the receivers, working on the jugs, after practice doing post drills. Regardless it just goes to show you doing all that work just to get one play. Hard work definitely does pay off.”
The safety then headed up field, returning the ball 50 yards to the Panther 25. The return would set up an eight-yard rush by Trace McSorley to increase the Nittany Lion lead to 35. Allen also finished with three tackles.
“I should have scored,” Allen said. “(Penny Hart) definitely was a good tackler. He got me pretty good and cut me off. If he wasn’t there it was going to be house.”
“Marcus has been one of the better field generals in the country in terms of getting our defense lined up and making adjustments,” Franklin said. “To see him get an interception tonight and almost return it for a touchdown, I’m really happy for him.”
Brown leaves with injury
The greatest fear entering a match-up with an inferior opponent is losing players to injury. For Penn State Saturday night, those greatest fears were realized.
Starting defensive end Torrence Brown was carted off the field late in the first quarter with an ugly right knee injury. A redshirt junior and Penn State’s most experienced defensive end, Brown was trying to wrap up Georgia State’s Penny Hart when a Panther blocker hit the defensive end below the knee. The junior immediately popped up after the play, but his right knee buckled as he collapsed to the ground. Brown had two tackles in the game and recorded three tackles in each of Penn State’s first two games this season. He returned to the sideline later in the game in street clothes.
“We don’t ever talk about (injuries),” Franklin said. “He was out in the second half, and obviously we are hopeful he’ll be available next week.”
Altoona Area High School product Kevin Givens picked up his first career fumble recovery. With just over four minutes gone in Georgia State’s opening drive of the second half, quarterback Conner Manning was sacked by Penn State’s Manny Bowen and Shaka Toney to force the ball loose. Givens was there to scoop the ball up at the Penn State 45. Givens recorded his second career tackle earlier in the game as well.
Redshirt sophomore Zach Simpson, a Hollidaysburg Area High School product, also saw significant time playing with the second-team offensive line.
Iowa’s injured bell cow
Penn State plays Iowa next week, and the Hawkeyes’ starting running back, Akrum Wadley, left early in the second quarter of their 31-14 win over North Texas with an apparent ankle injury. Wadley, who had 104 yards in the first half, was the leading rusher a year ago with 1081 yards and ten touchdowns.
The senior was contained to just 28 yards on the ground and one receiving touchdown in the Nittany Lions’ 41-14 2016 victory. Wadley’s backup James Butler, a Nevada transfer, also left Saturday’s game with an arm injury in the third quarter. Only Wadley returned from the locker room. Wadley and Butler are the nation’s only tandem to each rush for over 1,000 yards last season. If neither running back returns, the Hawkeyes will likely start true-freshman Ivory Kelly-Martin who finished Saturday with a pair of touchdowns and 75 yards.
Georgia State offensive woes
To the surprise of no one, the Panther offense struggled to find its groove against the Penn State defense. Although at times the shifty rusher, Taz Bateman, who rushed for 100 yards and broke a 17-yard rush in the fourth quarter, was able to make a few Nittany Lions miss tackles, the Georgia State offense was able to move the ball for just one explosive play, something that James Franklin highlighted as a key in the buildup to the game.
The Panthers had difficulties holding onto the ball, losing two by way of fumble and tossing three interceptions. Quarterback Conner Manning finished 16 of 29 for 133 yards and three picks while being aided by his top receiver, Penny Hart, with seven receptions for 56 yards. Cornerback Jerome Smith led the Panthers on defense with six tackles.
— Compiled by Thomas Schlarp