STATE COLLEGE, Pa. – Penn State had a little too much team speed for the University at Buffalo in scoring a 27-14 victory Saturday at Beaver Stadium.
A 58-yard punt return led to one score, and then fleet freshman running back Saquon Barkley sprinted to some big runs on a fourth quarter touchdown drive that put Penn State in command.
Big Picture: There are no moral victories, but the showing by UB’s defense gives Bulls fans more reason to be hopeful about the Mid-American Conference season. UB was mostly stout against the run. Most of the rushing yards the Nittany Lions gained were on end around plays on which their team speed made the difference. There were no major coverage busts by the young UB secondary.
Decisive stretch: Penn State was clinging to a 13-7 lead early in the fourth quarter when it marched 62 yards in four plays to a touchdown. Barkley made the difference, rushing for 59 yards on the march. His 9-yard score put PSU ahead, 20-7, with 12:04 left. Then Barkley capped a 74-yard march on the next possession to put the Nittany Lions up, 27-7, with 9:02 left.
Players of the Game: The best players on the field were Penn State’s starting defensive tackles, Anthony Zettel and 323-pound Austin Johnson. Zettel created the only turnover in the first half. UB was setting up a screen pass but Zettel penetrated too quickly and tipped the pass. It was intercepted by Carl Nassib, who returned it to the UB 12. That led to a 22-yard field goal.
Unsung Heroes: Defensive tackle Brandon Crawford, middle linebacker Nick Gilbo and outside linebacker Okezie Alozie were strong for the UB defense. UB tweaked its defense on a bunch of plays by playing Crawford at end, essentially playing three defensive tackles in the four-man line.
Game-breaker: Penn State’s first score was set up by a 58-yard punt return by DeAndre Thompkins to the UB 24. It wasn’t a bad punt by Tyler Grassman, 46 yards in the rain with a hang time of 4.3 seconds. But Thompkins’ speed made the difference. UB coaches were furious over a block in the back they thought should have been penalized.
End Around: Penn State scored two plays after the punt return on a 22-yard end around by Brnadon Polk, who has 10.6 100-meter speed.
Lineups: UB sophomore Andrews Dadeboe started at safety. He sat out last week due to injury. Penn State made a switch at left tackle, benching Paris Palmer, who was awful vs. Temple last week. Andrew Nelson shifted from right guard to take Palmer’s place. Nelson was injured at the end of the half and Palmer played the second half.
Flag Football: UB made eight penalties for 60 yards in the first half alone. The Bulls had five false starts in the first three series. UB also was called for three chop-block fouls, which set the offense back 15, 15 and 12 yards, respectively.
In the House: The paid attendance was 93,065, but there were about 65,000 people in the stands due to rain that fell heavily throughout the morning, discouraging the home crowd.
Next Up: The Bulls visit Florida Atlantic in Boca Raton, Fla., Saturday.