Penn State-Pitt notebook
Givens returns from suspension
PITTSBURGH — Defensive tackle Kevin Givens started Saturday’s game after being suspended for the season opener against Appalachian State for violating team rules.
Givens had a big impact, frequently getting into the backfield and finishing with a team-high seven tackles (five solo), two tackles for loss and one quarterback hurry.
Penn State coach James Franklin hasn’t disclosed details about the Givens suspension. During the ABC broadcast, play-by-play man Sean McDonough said Givens went through “behavior modification.”
Running back Miles Sanders said having Givens back was a big addition to the defense.
“He just disrupts all the plays,” Sanders said. “That’s what we need from him. I’m happy he’s back, and I know he’s happy he’s back.”
Sanders also added, “Last week we didn’t play good in the fourth quarter defensively, but the whole game was a hell of a game for the defense.”
Penn State destroyed Pitt, and Trace McSorley was responsible for three touchdowns. That’s the good news.
The bad news is that McSorley’s other stats for the game probably will hurt him in the Heisman race. It’s very early to be thinking about that, but McSorley completed just 14-of-30 passes for 145 yards and ran for 36 yards on five carries.
None of those figures should really matter in a 51-6 win, but at the end of the day, Heisman voters often are swayed more heavily by stats than the final score.
Lion receivers have the drops
McSorley would have put up better numbers if not for his receivers having a tough night. The Lions dropped four passes — two by DeAndre Thompkins and one apiece by Juwan Johnson and KJ Hamler.
Thompkins dropped a pass in the end zone. The ball was a tad high but still catchable. That cost McSorley another TD pass, and the other three drops also hurt the quarterback’s stats.
Taking over the stadium
The Penn State players could feel everything going their way in the second half at Heinz Field, which was about 50-50 from a fan standpoint for PSU and Pitt.
“It was awesome. We took over the stadium,” Sanders said.
As for the locker room after the game, Sanders said, “It’s a party in there.”
That wasn’t the case at halftime, when PSU led just 14-6.
The emphasis at that point was stopping Pitt’s running game.
“We just had to talk about it at halftime and everybody played their gaps,” defensive end Shareef Miller said.
Spectacular debut for QB Clifford
Backup quarterback Tommy Stevens was dressed and on the sideline but did not play in a second straight game. Stevens was dealing with a foot injury during preseason camp.
Sean Clifford took second-team reps before the game, and when McSorley finally was pulled late, Clifford came on to make his college debut.
What a debut it was for Clifford, who threw a 34-yard touchdown pass on his first play to Brandon Polk with 4:21 left to play.
Reid sits out game
Cornerback John Reid was in uniform on the sideline but didn’t play for Penn State, after sitting out large portions of the opener.
Reid missed last season with a knee injury and is expected to be a big part of this year’s defense, but that has not been the case so far. Franklin spoke during the week about Reid being rusty, but the fact that he didn’t play brings his health into question.
News and notes
Pitt honored some of its Pro Football Hall of Famers at halftime, bringing out superstars Dan Marino, Tony Dorsett, Mike Ditka and Hugh Green. … McSorley extended his streak of throwing a touchdown pass to 30 games, longest in the nation. … It was not a good game for freshman running Ricky Slade, who lost two fumbles. … Freshman LB Micah Parsons tied Givens for PSU team-high honors with seven tackles (five solo). … WR Brandon Polk started in place of DeAndre Thompkins, who is off to a rough start as he’s yet to catch a pass this season. … RT Will Fries got the start over Chasz Wright, who started the opener before giving way to Fries.
— Compiled by Cory Giger