The renewal of the Pittsburgh-Penn State rivalry proved worth the wait. And then some.
James Conner ran for 117 yards and a touchdown and caught another and cornerback Ryan Lewis intercepted Penn State quarterback Trace McSorley in the end zone with just over a minute to play as the Panthers held on for a 42-39 victory on Saturday before 69,983 fans.
Fullback George Aston ran for a pair of scores for Pitt (2-0), which nearly let a 21-point lead slip away only to hold on late when Lewis stepped in front of an underthrown pass by McSorley as the majority of the largest crowd to ever watch a sporting event in Pittsburgh erupted.
— Pitt Football (@Pitt_FB) September 10, 2016
Saquon Barkley almost singlehandedly brought the Nittany Lions (1-1) back from a 28-7 deficit. The sophomore running back totaled five touchdowns (four rushing, one receiving), the most by a Penn State player since Ki-Jana Carter did it against Michigan State in 1994.
McSorley passed for 332 yards and converted a fourth-and-16 to push the Nittany Lions into Pitt territory. Rather than play for overtime, however, McSorley tried to win it. His pass was off the mark and Lewis cradled it in his hands.
Penn State: Coach James Franklin’s third season is off to a less than ideal start. He tried to downplay the significance of the first game between the longtime rivals in 16 years in the run-up to kickoff. A year after getting stunned by Temple — next week’s opponent — Penn State can no longer claim bragging rights in any portion of the state. Barkley is a star in the making but the Nittany Lions curiously didn’t get him the ball when it was deep in Pitt territory trailing by a touchdown early in the fourth quarter. They settled for a field goal instead.
Pitt: Coach Pat Narduzzi issued a media blackout of his players during the week, saying he wanted them focused on the task at hand. The Panthers certainly looked ready while they gashed the Nittany Lions for 99 yards on the first drive and avoided the kind of late meltdown that has become the program’s calling card all too often in recent years.
Penn State: The Nittany Lions return home to face Temple next weekend. The Owls stunned Penn State 27-10 in Philadelphia last year, their first victory over the Nittany Lions in 74 years. Penn State plans to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Joe Paterno’s first game as coach, a decision that has been met with stiff resistance in some areas, including the school’s student newspaper.
Pitt: The Panthers head west on Saturday to take on No. 22 Oklahoma State (2-0) for the first time in program history.
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