STATE COLLEGE, PA — Penn State needed a quarter of play to find its rhythm, but when it did, the Massachusetts football team didn’t know how to respond.
The Nittany Lions rolled to a 48-7 victory over UMass Saturday in front of 99,155 at Beaver Stadium. Penn State scored 28 second quarter points — all of which came via rushing touchdonws — en route to the blowout victory. The sudden attack overwhelmed the Minutemen, who struggled to move the ball offensively and didn’t have an answer to Penn State’s rushing attack.
Penn State running back Bill Belton rushed for two scores of 20 yards or more, Nittany Lions running back Zach Zwinak added two of his own and quarterback Christian Hackenberg threw for 179 yards despite playing just over two quarters before being removed from the game. Penn State running back Akeel Lynch added a 46-yard run of his own to go with a touchdown.
UMass held Penn State to just a 6-0 lead after one quarter and even had a chance to score first. The Minutemen moved down to the Nittany Lion 22-yard line on their opening drive, but stalled and were forced to kick a field goal. Kicker Matthew Wylie pushed his 39-yard field goal attempt right — his first attempt of his career — and UMass came away with no points.
Penn State went on to score on its next eight drives.
The lone scoring play for UMass came on a 77-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Blake Frohnapfel to receiver Tajae Sharpe, who made a leaping grab across the middle of the field before racing past Penn State defenders.
- Marken Michel: UMass didn’t make many plays offensively Saturday, but the few highlights it did create mainly went to receiver Marken Michel. Minutemen coach Mark Whipple lined Michel up in a variety of spots — he took carries at halfback in addition to his role of receiver — and Michel impressed when given the ball in space. He finished with 104 yards receiving on six catches.
- Frohnapfel to Sharpe: The offense came far too late, but Frohnapfel and Sharpe again combined for a 77-yard touchdown pass against a power conference opponent. Against Boston College, Frohnapfel found Sharpe while the Minutemen trailed 20-0. This time, he found Sharpe on a similar route across the middle trailing 48-0. Sharpe continues to show he’s the best receiver on the team and the most consistent playmaker.
- Defense: UMass was dwarfed in every facet of the game, but it was most apparent when the Penn State offense took the field. The Minutemen had no answers — the Nittany Lions compiled 438 yards with nearly 11 minutes left in the fourth quarter — and were beaten on the ground for long gains. Belton rushed for touchdowns of 20 and 24 yards in addition to numerous long runs by Penn State backs.
- Tackling: It’s difficult to pinpoint any particular performance, but the tackling across the board was poor yet again for UMass. The defensive backs in particular missed a number of tackles which would have prevented long gashes and the linebackers failed to wrap up Belton on both of his rushes.
- Rushing attack: Earlier in the week, Whipple said he wasn’t sure UMass could run the football even if Jim Brown was on the roster. He was right. UMass gained just five yards on the ground despite rushing the ball XX times and looked anemic against a physically imposing Nittany Lions defensive line. UMass rotated between J.T. Blyden, Michel, Jordan Broadnax and Lorenzo Woodley, but none found any room to run.
Turning point of the game
UMass had a chance to take the lead after forcing Penn State into an opening three and out, but Wylie’s missed field goal and the offense’s inability to maintain its opening drive took the wind out of the proverbial sails. Penn State followed Wylie’s 39-yard miss with a pair of field goals before turning it on in the second quarter.