Penn State-Idaho notebook
Running Back U?
UNIVERSITY PARK — Redshirt sophomore Journey Brown and true freshman Noah Cain accounted for four of the Nittany Lions’ seven rushing touchdowns, three of which were from true freshmen. The team had five different running backs find the end zone in a game that showcased the depth of the Nittany Lion roster.
“It just makes us excited,” Brown said. “It shows the versatility and the firepower we have. I feel like that’s something we’ll capitalize on.”
Devyn Ford, who had 107 yards on six carries in his Nittany Lion debut, put his skills on display during an 81-yard touchdown run in the second quarter. A stellar block from receiver Justin Shorter allowed Ford to get to the corner.
Despite previously playing just one career snap, redshirt junior Nick Eury found the end zone as well. Eury has not seen the field since September 2017, but had 44 yards on six carries to add to Penn State’s big day on offense.
“We’ll start getting more guys the ball, see who can do stuff, make stuff shake, and we’ll continue doing what’s next,” Brown said.
Levis brings confidence
In a game focused on Sean Clifford, backup quarterback Will Levis’ performance assured fans that Penn State would be OK without its first-string quarterback. Levis, a redshirt freshman, went 11-for-14 and threw for a touchdown in his first game, but it’s the way he composed himself that stood out.
It was obvious early on that Clifford was nervous. He struggled with a few throws, but he quickly gained his footing. Levis stepped into the game in the third quarter and was locked in. His play and focus looked sharp, free of worry and jitters. He took over, albeit with a generous lead, but led the offense as if it was always his nonetheless.
Stout delivers in debut
In the offseason, redshirt sophomore Jordan Stout left Virginia Tech with the fourth-highest touchback percentage in the FBS. It was a match made in heaven for both him and the Nittany Lions, who had been lacking someone with serious leg power.
Stout had 12 touchbacks on 13 kickoffs in a kicking performance that stood out compared to those in recent memory.
He made both field goal attempts, including a 53-yard confidence-boosting kick that still had distance left in it.
“He has a good leg . . . so on further field goals over camp, we tested that and charted those, and he was a little more consistent,” kicker Jake Pinegar said on his teammate’s abilities. “On farther field goals, it’s kind of balanced right now, so he did a good job and we are just going to play from there.”
Idaho’s season got off to a disastrous start, with the Vandals gaining only 145 total yards of offense and five first downs.
The team, which dropped from FBS to FCS status in 2018, finished 4-7 last year in the Big Sky. It was clear that the Vandals were unequipped to match Penn State’s explosive offense and shutdown defense.
As some consolation, the team will be taking a whopping $1.45 million back west. That would be a big pay day even for an FBS team, but the two teams inked the deal back in the summer of 2015, when Idaho was still in the FBS. The announcement to switch subdivisions was made just over half a year later.
The team rotated both quarterbacks throughout the majority of the game, including junior Colton Richardson, who is listed at 6-4, 285 pounds. Neither one did exceptionally poor on the stat sheet, combining for a 16-for-26 effort in the air and throwing one interception.
Notably, the Vandals refused to punt the ball to returner KJ Hamler. The team punted 12 times, and nearly every punt intended for Hamler was a low, ugly kick that bounced off the field. Hamler was visibly frustrated, but understood it was part of the strategy.
“We didn’t really expect them to side-kick it this much this game,” Hamler said. “I was expecting some high punts, because the punter’s pretty good. If I had enough room to create something, make something happen, I took that shot.”
Meanwhile in Mississippi…
Graduate transfer Tommy Stevens made his first career start with Mississippi State Saturday where he led the Bulldogs to a 38-28 victory over Louisiana-Lafayette.
The ex-Nittany Lion went 20-for-30 with 236 yards through the air. He had two passing touchdowns, including one for 31 yards, as well as one on the ground on a 4-yard rush. He garnered a total of 37 rushing yards on 11 carries.
Stevens left Penn State back in May after coach James Franklin announced that the starting quarterback job would be a competition. Previously in his career, Stevens had thrown four touchdown passes, and was 24-for-41 in the air.
Stevens joined ex-Penn State offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead at Mississippi State after he took the head coaching job in 2017.
Compiled by Max Jordan