By Arielle Sargent,
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State Football saw its first setback of the 2016 season on the road Saturday at Pitt. The Nittany Lions rallied with 18 points in the fourth quarter, but the comeback fell short.
Reflecting on the ups and downs in an outing where the Nittany Lions trailed by as many as 21 and narrowed the deficit to as few as four, junior tight end Mike Gesicki recapped the sideline mentality.
"We have more heart than in my three years, more than we've ever had," Gesicki said. "We're not going to give up, we're not going to quit. We're going to do whatever it takes to come back and win. We owe it to each other and we owe it to our fans, but more importantly, we put far too much time into it to go down 28-7 and say, 'Alright. See you next week.' No. That's not happening anymore. That's not Penn State, that's not who we are. For us to fight back, turn that into a game and have the ball moving down the field on that last drive and converting a fourth down, that's who Penn State is. That's who we're going to be in the future."
Among takeaways and lessons learned, senior safety Malik Golden also took time following the game to address the first bit of adversity for the Nittany Lions in 2016.
"You've got to keep coming back and fighting," Golden said. "The game is never over so I never really consider any losses. I just think you learn a lot and that's about it."
The game will continue to roll on as the Nittany Lions prepare to take what they have learned and look toward hosting their second in-state opponent, welcoming Temple to Beaver Stadium for a noon kickoff Saturday on BTN.
A few more takeaways from Pitt ...
Gillikin Continues to
True freshman Blake Gillikin has continued to prove why he earned the job as Penn State's starting punter in a close preseason battle. Gillikin averaged 46.6 yards per punt on five attempts against Pitt, placing three inside the 20-yard line. In the heated Heinz Field environment, Gillikin placed his first punt from the 35-yard line during Penn State's opening drive on the Pitt one. He also added a pair of punts for at least 50 yards, including a career-long 69-yard punt to the Pitt 7-yard line in the fourth quarter. Averaging 46.8 yards per punt on the year, he enters the week ranked 10th nationally and second in the Big Ten.
Davis Extending the
Heading into last week, junior kicker Tyler Davis entered Pitt game week at 10-for-10 in his career. He also entered with a 14-for-14 mark in extra point attempts for a combined 24-for-24 in field goals and PATs. He extended his streak against the Panthers, adding another field goal and four PATs to bring his combined total to 29-for-29. He's still firmly out to the best kicking start in Nittany Lion program history since at least 1970. Davis is one of 38 FBS players to top the national standings with a perfect field goal percentage in 2016. His 1.50 field goals per game average also ranks 25th nationally.
Thompkins Stepping Up
In week one we saw a glimpse of what sophomore wide receiver DeAndre Thompkins is capable of with his season-high 43-yard reception from quarterback Trace McSorley in the season opener against Kent State. Stepping into a starting role at Pitt, Thompkins led the team with 87 yards on three receptions. Two of his three receptions were for at least 30 yards, highlighting the day with a 39-yard grab in the fourth quarter that eventually led to a Penn State touchdown.
The Owls are led by fourth-year head coach Matt Rhule, who guided Temple to a 10-4 record, a bowl appearance and an America Athletic Conference East Division title in 2015, marking one of the program's best seasons in history. Rhule also has close ties to Penn State, having played linebacker for the Nittany Lions from 1994-97. An Academic All-Big Ten honoree, he earned a Penn State degree in political science upon graduation.
Following last year's successful turnout, Penn State is set to host its second annual "Stripe Out" game in Beaver Stadium Saturday. Fans will have the opportunity to once again find out if their seating location calls for blue or white attire. Fans can the website PennStateStripeOut.com to enter their second and find out which color to wear to the Stripe Out.