STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — Pitt needed to be pretty much perfect to come into a hostile environment and upset the No. 4 team in the country in the Penn State Nittany Lions. They weren’t even close.
Pitt stuttered and stumbled to a close game at the half, but ultimately the more talented Penn State squad ran away behind Heisman Trophy candidate Saquon Barkley to a 33-14 victory on Saturday afternoon.
Pitt quarterback Max Browne got off to a poor start and never really seemed to find his footing running the offense, which had a decent day statistically, but had trouble finishing some long drives.
Browne was intercepted by Penn State corner Grant Haley on Pitt’s opening drive of the game and Haley returned it all the way to the Pitt 8-yard line, which set up a one-play scoring drive when Trace McSorley hit Mike Gesicki on a play-action pass.
It looked early like it was going to be a long day for the Panthers as McSorley and Geiscki connected for another touchdown on Penn State’s third drive to give the Lions a 14-0 lead.
But the Panthers scrambled back with an offensive attack that was led by Qadree Ollison’s 96 yards rushing, but had to settle for an Alex Kessman field goal before the end of the half.
In the second half, Barkley’s talent took over. The Penn State back finished with 88 yards on 14 carries and a backbreaking 46-yard touchdown catch that gave the Lions a 21-3 lead in the third quarter.
Pitt added another Kessman field goal and finally found the end zone in the fourth when Browne had to the leave the game after taking a hit to the head and backup Ben DiNucci struck paydirt on a 3-yard keeper. He flipped a shovel pass to Ollison to complete a 2-point conversion and bring the game back to two scores.
But after a defensive stop gave the Panthers some late life, Browne threw an ill-advised pass to Darrn Hall in his own end zone that went for a safety, giving Penn State the ball, the momentum and ultimately sealing the victory.
DiNucci then replaced Browne and led the offense down the field on a long drive, but fumbled with 11 seconds left.