On the anniversary of one of college football’s biggest upsets, Penn State avoided becoming the victim of a modern day Cinderella story.
— Penn State On BTN (@PennStateOnBTN) September 1, 2018
On the 11th anniversary of their historic win over Michigan, the Appalachian State Mountaineers almost earned another win against a historic, ranked Big Ten program. Those who don’t remember history are doomed to repeat it, but, despite a legitimate threat from the feisty Mountaineers, the Penn State Nittany Lions did their homework.
Miles Sanders scored from nine yards out to provide the winning touchdown in overtime, while Amani Oruwariye’s interception on the potential response allowed Happy Valley to exhale, as Penn State, ranked 10th in the AP preseason poll, emerged with a 45-38 victory on Saturday afternoon at Beaver Stadium.
Were you tired of taking a knee?
So KJ Hamler started running and 52 yards later gave Penn State new life. pic.twitter.com/Jm5zIgGM9Y
— Audrey Snyder (@audsnyder4) September 2, 2018
3rd Star: WR KJ Hamler
The redshirt freshman came up huge for the Nittany Lions. He was the team’s top receiver, tallying 68 yards on four receptions, with the final 15 yards being the game-tying touchdown hookup. The return was his first of the late afternoon, forced to take a knee after the first several Appalachian kickoffs. His 52-yard return, however, put the Nittany Lions in business.
HUGE throw from Trace McSorley to tie it up for Penn State.
He's got the ball with 15 seconds left needing a FG to win it.pic.twitter.com/ACsyzZMtlC
— Sporting News (@sportingnews) September 1, 2018
2nd Star: QB Trace McSorley
McSorley’s antics perhaps single-handedly kept Penn State’s case from becoming truly dire, tallying 283 yards between the air and ground, scoring three touchdowns overall.
— Sleeper Athletes (@SleeperAthletes) September 1, 2018
1st Star: RB Miles Sanders
Sanders undoubtedly has the biggest cleats on campus, filling those of Saquon Barkley as Penn State’s new premiere back. He filled the role well in the first post-Barkley start, picking up 111 all-purpose yards, including 91 on the ground, the final nine providing the victory.
“I think I did a good job preparing myself for the games this year in the summer and spring, knowing that I would be in a lot more than I usually am,” Sanders said, according to Greg Pickel of Penn Live. “We’re going to come in tomorrow and critique ourselves and be better for next week.”
No. 10 Penn State avoids the upset! pic.twitter.com/tQ4Bg3Nr4A
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) September 1, 2018
How It Was Decided
With the score tied at 31, the Nittany Lions suffered what could’ve been a swift, quick backbreaker in the form of a four-play, 42-yard drive that took a mere 72 seconds. A strong return by KJ Hamler, however, helped with taking the ensuing kickoff four yards in his own end zone all the way to the Mountaineers’ 48-yard line. They quickly got themselves into a dicey situation, facing fourth down, but McSorely took care of business in the form of consecutive first downs before finding Hamler for the score that sent it into overtime. With momentum firmly in the blue corner, they survived an Appalachian State fourth down conversion before Oruwariye’s interception.
Appalachian State did have one more chance to win, but a would-be game-winning field goal from 56 yards out went wide left, ensuring the game would continue.
The Nittany Lions will take on their in-state rivals from Pittsburgh for the 99th time next Saturday night at Heinz Field (8:00 p.m. ET, ABC). With the rivalry rebooted in 2016, the two teams have split the first two meetings, the Nittany Lions emerging with a 33-14 victory at home last season. Dating back to 1989, they are 8-2 in their last ten against the Panthers, including a 33-14 triumph last season in State College. A win on Pittsburgh turf would be Penn State’s first since 2000.