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Recap: Flashes outclassed by powerful Penn State offense, 63-10

Kent State hangs with #11 Penn State for nearly two quarters in loss.

Kent State v Penn State Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

In his third game at head coach, Sean Lewis would have to slay his greatest dragon yet: the No. 11 Penn State Nittany Lions. Kent State managed to keep the score respectable in the first half, but Lewis’ program ultimately fell to 1-2 after a 63-10 thrashing in the country’s second largest football stadium.

With some bold play-calling in the opening minutes, Kent State clearly announced that it had come to play in front of over 100,000 in Happy Valley. The Golden Flashes impressively halted the Penn State offense on the Nittany Lions’ first drive of the afternoon, but a fatal roughing the punter on fourth down extended the drive and injected new life into the home team.

Penn State capitalized on the second opportunity, as Heisman candidate quarterback Trace McSorley launched a bomb to wide receiver DeAndre Thompkins for a 40-yard score.

Despite getting thrown into a quick 7-0 hole on the road, Kent State responded. The Penn State defense looked undisciplined on the Flashes’ first offensive sequence, jumping offsides three times on the possession. One of these penalties allowed Kent State to convert on 4th-and-5 and another gave the team a free play — where Woody Barrett completed a beautiful throw to Mike Carrigan down the left sideline for a 47-yard score.

The underdogs decided to continue rolling the dice. Kent State followed up the impressive touchdown grab with an onside kick, and the Golden Flashes snatched the ball from an unsuspecting Penn State special teams unit. The forceful Nittany Lions defense prevented Kent State from grabbing a lead, and the Flashes punted shortly after.

McSorley scored his first of three rushing touchdowns of the day on the ensuing drive. His read option proved to be unstoppable for the Kent State defense. The senior scampered for 54 yards on nine carries, tying Franco Harris in the program record book for career rushing touchdowns along the way.

A 12-yard punt on Kent State’s next drive paved an open pathway for McSorley to rush for yet another score to lead 21-7. But the Golden Flashes’ defense would stand firm each of the next three times James Franklin’s team held the ball.

After forcing two punts and failing to capitalize offensively, Kent State received a huge momentum boost. A juggled pass by running back Miles Sanders landed into the hands of Kent State safety Elvis Hines. Hines nearly ran the turnover back for a touchdown, but McSorley made an impressive diving tackle at the defensive back’s legs.

Unfortunately for Kent State, the offense couldn’t string together a touchdown with field position inside the 10, and the Golden Flashes settled for a Matthew Trickett chip shot field goal.

Just 35 seconds remained in the half, and Kent State appeared to be in excellent shape down 21-10, receiving the kickoff at halftime. Special teams execution hurt Kent State on the kickoff, as the Flashes allowed Penn State wide receiver K.J. Hamler to return the ball 52 yards. Four plays later, McSorley extended the lead to 28-10 by easily sprinting up the middle for a 13-yard score with four seconds left on the clock.

In the second half, Kent State lost 35-0. That final Penn State drive of the half proved to be the turning point, and the Nittany Lions stormed out of the locker room at Beaver Stadium with a new and improved offense. Just like when Penn State defeated Pitt 37-0 in the second half last week, the Nittany Lions were too powerful for Kent State’s defense.

The five touchdowns, several of them occurring with backups in, included a 41-yard touchdown pass from McSorley to Brandon Polk and an unguarded 95-yard touchdown pass that Penn State’s backup quarterback Sean Clifford slung from his own end zone.

Kent State allowed 667 yards in the 53-point loss, with 370 coming through the air. Offensively, the Golden Flashes struggled with the run where they only accumulated 41 yards. Of those 41 yards, backup quarterback Dustin Crum contributed 23 when he checked into the game during garbage time and was prolific in running the option.

Lastly, Kent State committed 10 penalties, which didn’t help against a more superior Big Ten program. The Golden Flashes have shown plenty of improvement in 2018, but Saturday’s 63-10 result shows that the rushing offense and the defense still has plenty of work to do. Kent State resumes action in Week 4 with another challenging Power Five opponent looming — the Ole Miss Rebels in Oxford, MS.