Penn State entered its Homecoming battle with Purdue looking to carry over the momentum from last week's 59-0 trouncing of Maryland. For the first 15 minutes against the Boilermakers, things appeared to be trending that way. The Nittany Lions quickly exploded for three touchdowns in the first half and were well on their way to another blowout win.
Sean Clifford tossed his third touchdown pass of the game early in the second quarter to put the Nittany Lions up 28-0.
That's when things got weird.
For whatever reason, the air completely went out of the Nittany Lions' sails. The play-calling became ultra-conservative and the team seemed to let off the gas. Give the Boilermakers some credit–they amped up their pressure on defense and started to find at least part of a rhythm on offense.
At the end of the day, Penn State did win this one easily, but it certainly wasn't pretty after the first quarter.
- Where is the run game? Penn State is loaded at running back with the likes of Journey Brown, Ricky Slade, Noah Cain, and Devyn Ford. Despite all the talent, the Nittany Lions had trouble getting going on the ground. For much of the game, Sean Clifford was leading the team in rushing. Things did get better as the fourth quarter went on, and Noah Cain finished with a team-high 105 yards on 12 carries. He was also the only running back to score.
- What happened to the play-calling? The Nittany Lions came out hot in the first quarter, but as soon as they went up by 28, the offense stopped rolling. Call it Ricky Rahne keeping it close to the vest, but the game plan turned vanilla. Sure, the Nittany Lions still won by 28, but the play of the offense in the middle of the game has to be concerning.
- Purdue managed just 104 yards of total offense and finished a whopping -19 on the ground. News Flash–Penn State's defense is good.
- Speaking of defense, the defensive line was dominant. Shaka Toney recorded three sacks, while Yetur Gross-Matos added two more. As a team, the Nittany Lions registered 10 sacks on the Boilermakers. Penn State's defensive line spent much of its day in the Purdue backfield.
It's odd to feel negative after a 28-point win, but this one surely had its issues. Still, a 28-point win is a 28-point win. With a tough road trip to Iowa City on deck next week, Penn State will need to figure out how to make sure they can look more like they did in the first quarter than the latter three.