Trace McSorley threw for three touchdowns, including Saquon Barkley’s 46-yard catch-and-run, and No. 4 Penn State pulled away from Pittsburgh for a 33-14 win on Saturday.
McSorley completed 15 of 28 passes for 164 yards, helping the Nittany Lions (2-0) avenge a loss to their in-state rivals a year ago. Tight end Mike Gesicki had two touchdown receptions and Barkley ran for 88 yards as Penn State ended a two-game skid against the Panthers.
Qadree Ollison rushed for 96 yards for the Panthers (1-1), but Pitt’s offense struggled to finish drives early on and the Nittany Lions pulled away late. Max Browne completed 19 of 32 passes for only 138 yards and was intercepted twice.
Pitt dominated in time of possession, holding the ball for more than 38 minutes. Penn State countered with a quick strike attack in front of the largest Beaver Stadium crowd in nearly a decade.
“Guys had grudges, a chip on their shoulders, coming into this game like myself,” Nittany Lions safety Marcus Allen said. “I definitely did.”
Twice the Nittany Lions needed just one snap to score. McSorley found a wide-open Gesicki for an 8-yard touchdown just 2:07 into the game after Browne’s first interception. McSorley hit Barkley down the middle of the field early in the second half and Barkley went the rest of the way for a 21-3 lead early in the third quarter.
“Our offense is very explosive and that’s kind of how we were again today,” Penn State coach James Franklin said. “I would like to see us sustain some more drives but we showed we can score at any moment.”
Pitt drew within 14 when sophomore quarterback Ben DiNucci scored on a 3-yard run after Browne was forced to sit for one play after his helmet came off. DiNucci added a 2-point conversion to Ollison to make it 28-14.
Any chance the Panthers had to put together a rally ended with just over six minutes to go.
Backed up at the Pitt 3, Browne hit running back Darrin Hall in the flat. Hall was tackled by Allen for a safety. The Nittany Lions added a field goal on the ensuing possession for the final margin.
Browne left late with a gash over his right eye but will remain the starter. Either way, the Panthers understand they need to eliminate mistakes.
“We can’t turn the ball over more than anything,” Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi said. “You’re not going to beat a top-10 team in the country turning the ball over.”
Pitt: Narduzzi downplayed the idea of a quarterback controversy but may end up having one anyway. Browne, a graduate transfer from Southern California, underwhelmed for the second consecutive week and DiNucci provides a more mobile option. Browne is averaging just 7.72 yards per completion and has been unable to generate anything downfield.
Penn St.: McSorley’s worries about the slow starts that cost the Nittany Lions in last year’s loss disappeared when Penn State scored twice in the game’s first 10 minutes. A true blowout, however, never materialized in part to McSorley’s inaccuracy. He missed wide open receivers on numerous occasions in the first half on overthrows. He’ll need to calm the jitters earlier in games going forward.
Pitt: doesn’t get any easier next Saturday, when 10th-ranked Oklahoma State (2-0) visits Heinz Field. The Cowboys held off the Panthers 45-38 last season in Stillwater.