PSU: Highs-Lows in win over Buffalo
By NEIL RUDEL
For The Express
UNIVERSITY PARK — Following are the highlights and lowlights from Penn State’s 45-13 victory over Buffalo on Saturday night at Beaver Stadium:
Play of the game: Nittany Lion cornerback John Reid intercepted Matt Myers and returned it 36 yards for a much-needed touchdown that gave Penn State a 14-10 lead with 12:58 left in the third quarter.
Offensive player of the game: Penn State tight end Pat Freiermuth made eight catches for 94 yards and two touchdowns.
Defensive player of the game: Reid, who also broke up two other passes and made four tackles.
Most telling statistic: Penn State outscored the Bulls 38-3 in the second half.
Most deceiving statistic: Buffalo dominated time of possession in the first half, keeping it 21:18 to the Lions’ 8:32 and thanks to the Lions’ quick scores, would up with an advantage of 42:32-17:28.
Hidden statistic: Penn State averaged 17.4 yards on its 16 completions.
Best run: Sean Clifford faked to Noah Cain and burst 58 yards to the Buffalo 2 in the third quarter, setting up Cain’s touchdown and a 28-13 lead.
Best pass: Pick any of Matt Myers’ three on Buffalo’s 96-yard scoring drive that gave the Bulls a 10-7 lead with 11 seconds remaining in the first half — the 29-yarder to tight end Zac Lefebvre, the 40-yard dime he dropped into Antonio Nunn to the PSU 6 or the 6-yard TD to Julien Bourassa that beat Garrett Taylor’s safety blitz.
Worst pass: Myers had Nunn open deep in the third quarter but missed him.
Best catch: Freiermuth pulled in a nifty one-handed reception and rumbled 27 yards for a touchdown that extended the Lions’ lead to 35-13 with 2:56 left in the third quarter.
Catch it, will ya: With PSU leading just 7-3 late in the second quarter, KJ Hamler let some air out of the stadium by dropping a wide open pass in front of the Penn State bench, forcing a punt.
Hold it, won’t ya: Ricky Slade fumbled away a promising third-quarter drive.
Best block: It wasn’t technically a block, but Hamler coyly screened a Buffalo defender, which made it easier for Jahan Dotson to haul in a 28-yard touchdown pass from Sean Clifford that gave the Nittany Lions a 7-0 lead in the first quarter.
Best tackle: Cam Brown forced a fumble from Kevin Marks that Brown recovered, setting up the Lions with a short field, which turned into their first TD.
Best hit: Freshman linebacker Brandon Smith had another bone-rattler in the fourth quarter, this time against Ron Cook Jr. (no relation to the Pittsburgh columnist.)
Best kick(s): One of Jordan Stout’s eight touchbacks.
Worst kick: Blake Gillikin shanked a 26-yard punt in the second quarter.
Worst penalty: Up 7-3 in the second quarter but getting thoroughly outplayed, the Lions had 30-yard reception on a tough catch by Hamler wiped out when guard C.J. Thorpe drifted far enough for an illegal receiver downfield flag.
Best call: Buffalo sprung a perfectly executed 19-yard screen pass in the second quarter to the PSU 28, setting up a field goal and helping the Bulls maintain control of the clock.
Worst call: Didn’t like Penn State, down 10-7 at halftime, opening the second half with a quarterback draw from its 23-yard line. It gained two yards.
Best effort: Dotson caught four passes for 101 yards and two scores.
Unsung heroes: Penn State’s starting linebackers — Brown, Micah Parsons and Jan Johnson — each had 10-plus tackles.