Kent State visits Penn State Saturday at noon; here’s what you need to know about the game
UNIVERSITY PARK — Penn State wraps up the non-conference portion of its college football schedule on Saturday, when the No. 10 Nittany Lions host Kent State at noon.
It’s been two years since Penn State and Kent State last met. The 2016 game marked the first career college start for quarterback Trace McSorley, who threw for 209 yards and two touchdowns in the game as Penn State won, 33-13.
McSorley enters Saturday’s game riding a streak of 30 straight games with a touchdown pass.
Here’s what you need to know about the game.
Kent State (1-1) at No. 10 Penn State (2-0)
PARKING: Several lots have been closed due to the rainy weather this week. Go here to read about the changes and how they might affect your trip to Happy Valley.
ABOUT PENN STATE: The Nittany Lions improved to 2-0 with a 51-6 drubbing of cross-state rival Pittsburgh in a prime-time game last Saturday in Heinz Field. The 45-point margin of victory was the largest in the Penn State-Pitt series since a 52-point win (65-9) over the Panthers in 1968.
McSorley completed 14-of-30 passes for 145 yards as wet and rainy conditions factored in several dropped passes, but he threw for two touchdowns and rushed five times for 36 yards and a touchdown. KJ Hamler was the leading receiver, with three catches for 40 yards and a touchdown, and he also scored Penn State’s first TD of the game on a jet sweep from 32 yards out. Additionally, running back Miles Sanders posted his first career 100-yard rushing game, totaling 118 yards on 16 carries, with a long rush of 41 yards.
For the season, McSorley has completed 34 of 65 passes for 374 yards and three touchdowns, and has added 89 yards and three scores on the ground.
Sanders is the team’s leading rusher, with 209 yards and two TDs on 35 attempts.
Hamler, a 5-9, 173-pound sophomore, has been a revelation in his first two games with the Lions, logging six receptions for 107 yards and two scores, a 32-yard TD run against Pitt last week, and an average of 31.3 yards per return as a punt returner.
Penn State is averaging 208 rushing yards and 204 passing yards per game, and is outscoring its opponents 96-44.
Defensively, the Lions have struggled. They’re allowing 375 yards per game, including 202 per game on the ground.
ABOUT KENT STATE: The Golden Flashes defeated Howard last week to even their record. They dropped a 31-24 decision to Illinois in their season opener.
Kent State is led by first-year coach Sean Lewis, who at 31 years old is the youngest FBS coach in the nation. He comes to the Golden Flashes after serving as co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach under Dino Barbers at Syracuse. Lewis, who was a two-time Academic All-Big Ten selection as a tight end under Barry Alvarez at Wisconsin, also served as offensive coordinator at Bowling Green in 2015, when Falcons won the Mid-American Conference title. He also spent time on the coaching staff at Eastern Illinois.
The Flashes led Illinois 17-3 at halftime in their opener before the Illini stormed back in the second half. Kent State plays an up-tempo offensive scheme they call “FlashFAST” football. The Flashes average 83 offensive plays for game, the 12th-highest total in FBS.
Lewis inherited a team that returned 14 starters and 49 lettermen from last year.
Kent State averages 269 rushing yards and 203 passing yards per game on offense, while opponents are averaging 172 and 197 yards per game in those respective categories.
Junior running back Justin Rankin leads the Flashes with 199 yards and a touchdown on 27 carries, while sophomore QB Woody Barrett is second on the team with 135 yards and two scores on 28 attempts. Barrett has also completed 41 of 68 passes for 426 yards and three TDs in his first two games.
Wideout Mike Carrigan (10-59, TD) and running back/wideout Raekwan James (7-76) are the team’s top receivers.