Buffalo-PSU notes: The Freiermuth impact
UNIVERSITY PARK — Toward the end of last week’s first half, Penn State tight end Pat Freiermuth was hit head-on by an Idaho player, knocking him out of the game.
His status for this week’s game was unsure as coach James Franklin declined to comment on the severity of the injury. Nonetheless, Freiermuth suited up for game two and made a big impact.
“I thought he played really well in game one,” Franklin said.
Freiermuth had one reception for 25 yards in game one against the Vandals.
Franklin was quick to point out that his starters, namely KJ Hamler and Freiermuth, are what’s going to put the team over the top.
“Those guys need to touch the ball as much as they can,” Franklin said.
In the third quarter, quarterback Sean Clifford found Freiermuth for a 23-yard touchdown pass. Less than 10 minutes later, Clifford hit Freiermuth with a shovel pass that he took 28 yards to the house. He finished the day with eight receptions for 100 yards and two touchdowns.
“They’re all lessons,” Franklin said. “How we practice, how we compete, being able to play with a lead, a big lead, not laying off.”
A little taste of MACtion
Even with the lead at halftime, Penn State’s offense was too much for the Bulls to handle.
Buffalo was still in the game after the first half, even putting together some lengthy drives. In the second quarter, they strung together a 21-play drive that resulted in a field goal.
“I think they had a really good plan coming in,” Franklin said.
Buffalo was able to break up plays early and create pressure on Penn State, causing the Lions to make mistakes.
“I thought the inconsistency still stayed there,” Franklin said. “We just became more explosive in the second half.”
While it was clear Penn State picked up the pace later in the game, it was pretty clear Buffalo was shooting itself in the foot a lot of the time. From overthrowing the ball to poor play calling, the Bulls’ mistakes were enough to take themselves out of the game, which is something you can’t do against a team that knows how to capitalize on that.
Buffalo punter Evan Finegan was carted off the field toward the end of the fourth quarter with a significant leg injury. His punt was tipped by Journey Brown and was crushed into the field. Finegan did not return to the game.
This is the fourth meeting between the two teams, with Penn State now leading the series 3-1. The most recent game occurred in 2015, when Penn State defeated the Bulls 27-14. For Penn State’s only loss, you’ll have to go back to 1900 when Buffalo beat the Nittany Lions 10-0.
The Bulls are 1-8 all-time against the Big Ten, with their 42-13 victory over Rutgers last year coming as their first.
’94 team gets honored
The undefeated 1994 team was honored at halftime. Alumni may remember this team from defeating No. 12 Oregon in the Rose Bowl to cap off a perfect 12-0 season.
“Amazing, it’s great,” defensive end Clint Seace said on what it’s like to be back in State College.
In 1994, there was controversy as to whether the national championship should go to Penn State or Nebraska, with the Huskers ultimately claiming the title. Nebraska defeated No. 3 Miami in the Orange Bowl.
“Yeah, we should’ve at least played for it,” Seace said.
But Seace said that he has no words for anyone on that Nebraska team. When asked what he would say to the players of that team, Seace responded simply.
“Nothing. Nothing worth saying,” he said.
Penn State played some other notable games that year too, including No. 14 USC, No. 5 Michigan and No. 21 Ohio State.
Seace also noted that a few things have changed since then, notably the music.
“Way back then, it was just the Blue Band,” Seace said.
Pitt comes to town
Pitt will look to play spoiler during its trip to Happy Valley this weekend in the 100th all-time game played between the two teams.
Coming off Saturday’s 20-10 win over Ohio, the 1-1 Panthers will look to get their season back on track after a week one loss to Virginia. Junior quarterback Kenny Pickett is 47-for-78 on the year with two interceptions and two touchdowns each. He threw a career-high 321 yards against Ohio. Last year versus Penn State, Pickett was 9-for-18 with 55 yards and one interception.
Also watch for wide receiver and kick returner Maurice Ffrench, the senior who had 19 carries for 164 yards last year. Ffrench is due for a breakout year, and though he’s been quiet so far this season, expect him to be a handful.
Typically, Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi is against his players talking to the media during weeks the team plays Penn State. Last year, Penn State scored a late touchdown that Narduzzi felt was unnecessary, and notably said “we’ll have another shot. It ain’t over.”
The history between these teams runs deep with Penn State leading the all-time series 52-43-4. The teams reinstated their rivalry in 2016 after not playing since 2000. Penn State is 2-1 in the last three years, including last year’s 51-6 blowout.
Franklin is no stranger to the Panthers, and he knows that they will be coming to Penn State to compete.
“We got a really good opponent next week, and we (have to) take the next step,” Franklin said.
Mississippi State defeated Southern Mississippi 38-15 Saturday, but it came with a scare after graduate transfer Tommy Stevens left the game late in the second quarter with a sprained shoulder.
Stevens was 9-for-10 with 105 yards and two touchdowns on the day when he exited the game. He did not return.
It is unclear whether Stevens was unfit to play the remainder or if he was precautionarily sat, as the Bulldogs were up 21-0 at the half. He walked himself to the locker room following the injury.
Stevens had previous injury troubles while in Happy Valley, though his injuries were typically reported as lower body.
True freshman Garret Shrader stepped in and went 6-for-10 with 66 yards in his Bulldog debut. Mississippi State moves to 2-0 after last week’s 38-28 victory over Louisiana-Lafayette.
— Compiled by Max Jordan