Penn State notebook

Givens suspended, hurting defense

09/01/18 Patrick Waksmunski / Appalachian v Penn State / Penn State defensive tackle Kevin Givens walks back the the sideline during a timeout.

UNIVERSITY — Defensive tackle Kevin Givens did not play in Saturday’s opener as he was suspended for violating team rules and was on the sideline in street clothes.

It’s unclear what rule Givens broke, and also unclear if he will be available to play next week at Pitt. Coach James Franklin would not elaborate on either issue after the game.

But it was clear that Penn State’s defense missed the Altoona Area High School product, who is expected to be one of the best players on the D-line and the overall defense this season.

“I don’t think there is any doubt when you got one of your better defensive tackles not playing the game, did that have a factor in it? I don’t think there is any doubt about it, and we will be better when Kevin starts playing for us.”

The Mirror had learned a few weeks ago from a source that Givens might have gotten into trouble either during the summer or in preseason camp. But no sources confirmed that in the weeks leading up to Saturday’s game.

When asked about Givens on Tuesday, Franklin offered praise and no indication that the junior had been suspended.

“Kevin Givens is a grown man,” Franklin said. “He’s really grown and evolved in so many different ways in our program. He’s still got a ways to go. But I think about when we were recruiting him and he was, I think a 6-1, 237-pound or 245-pound linebacker and running back.

“To see where he is now, I’m proud of Kevin. He’s still got growth to make in a lot of different areas, but he is headed in the right direction, and I’m really proud of him. So I think he’s going to have a significant year for us.”

Hamler excels in first college game

Redshirt freshman receiver KJ Hamler played his first football game in two years, having missed his senior year of high school with an injury and then redshirting last season. Hamler made two huge plays late that helped PSU win and had a strong game overall.

“I learned that you can’t be like scared, so you’ve just got to go ahead and take that risk like I did today,” Hamler said.

That risk was him taking a kickoff out from deep in his own end zone and returning it 52 yards to set up the Lions’ tying touchdown in the final minute.

Franklin joked of the play, “That was coaching. That was coaching right there.”

Hamler later caught the tying TD pass from Trace McSorley with 42 seconds to go, forcing overtime. He finished with four catches for 68 yards, and the late kickoff return was his only one of the game.

RB by committee works well

Miles Sanders got the bulk of carries and production for the game, and all of the carries in overtime, but Penn State’s other tailbacks also played well.

True freshman Ricky Slade carried six times for 39 yards, including a 27-yard TD run in the third quarter. Mark Allen got five carries and gained 24 yards.

Defense struggles for PSU

The Lions gave up 38 points in regulation to a mid-major that was starting a new quarterback. App State also finished with 451 yards — more than PSU’s 434 — and Zac Thomas threw for 270 yards and two TDs while completing 25-of-38 passes.

The Lions rotated a lot of young players in on defense, including prized linebackers Micah Parsons (four tackles) and Jesse Luketa.

Penn State didn’t get a lot of pressure on Thomas, who threw quickly and accurately and burned the secondary repeatedly in the second half.

“First game of the season there is always going to be times where we make mistakes,” cornerback Amani Oruwariye said. “We try to eliminate and minimize them as much as possible, but there is definitely mistakes that we have to clean and move on from.”

PK Pinegar has good day

Freshman place-kicker Jake Pinegar kicked a 32-yard field goal and converted all of his extra point attempts for Penn State. That could be a very positive sign for the rest of the season after Pinegar won the job in a tough competition during camp.

News and notes

Penn State gave up a 100-yard kickoff return right after scoring an early touchdown. The Lions converted their own onside kick but also allowed App State to convert a big one late in the game. Franklin, naturally, said he did not think special teams played well. … Chasz Wright started at right tackle for the Lions, but he gave way to Will Fries later in the game. … Hollidaysburg’s Zach Simpson was in on the punt team and field goal units for the Lions. … Former PSU star and BTN analyst Matt Millen was the honorary captain for the game.

— Compiled by Cory Giger