On a perfect, sunny September afternoon, the Nittany Lions struggled against themselves in the first quarter, and only led 17-7 at the half. The defense pitched a shut-out, but the scoreboard was marred by an unearned TD when true Freshman Christian Hackenberg let the ball slip through his fingers on an unforced fumble error which gave the Eagles their only points of the day.
The offense eventually produced 574 yards, but sputtered early in the game. Hackenberg made an early mistake, throwing into double coverage that killed a promising drive with an INT. But the kid bounced back, maintained his composure, and went on to set a record for a freshman quarterback at Penn State.
Akeel Lynch debuted in the second quarter, and immediately showed the crowd that he was the “real deal.” He sealed the real deal in the second half with a dominate performance and 108 total yards on the day, joining fellow running back Belton who also made a buck eight for the game, thanks largely to a highlight reel run up the middle for 51 yards and a score in the fourth quarter.
Lynch’s performance was fitting, given that his #22 was retired in honor of Penn State’s only Heisman Trophy Winner, John Cappalletti. In a locker room address to the team, Cappalletti told Lynch to keep wearing the number . . . but he has to give it back to him at the end of the season!
So let’s look at the big picture. It was only EMU–a team ranked near the bottom of the FBS schools. And while we struggled offensively early on, that is to be expected to some degree given the level of excitement about the opponent (pretty low compared to Syracuse last week I would think) and a freshman quarterback who is bound to make mistakes. The Lions were only 1-10 on third downs this week (2 for 26 on the season!) but it didn’t keep them from rolling up the yardage and scoring points.
Statistics are just damned lies! Here’s the one that counts: Penn State is 2-0 on the season with what looks like a lot of potential on offense and a defense that shut out an opponent. And while Syracuse lost to Northwestern 48-27, Penn State held the Orangemen to 17 points, and you have to wonder if the close loss last week emotionally drained Syracuse a bit which contributed to the larger margin of loss this week. Now we’re really reading tea leaves here! My Magic Eight Ball tells me to MOVE ON. Where have I heard that before????
Sam Ficken has set a school record by successfully kicking his 14th consecutive field goal in a streak that started last year after an abysmal start.
I will address some other gameday issues in a separate post (the music and the new ban on bags.)
BY THE NUMBERS:
From the GoPSUSports site:
|PASSING YDS (NET)………….||122||323|
|TOTAL OFFENSE PLAYS-YARDS…..||63-183||74-574|
|Third-Down Conversions……..||3 of 16||1 of 10|
|Fourth-Down Conversions…….||0 of 1||2 of 2|
|Sacks By: Number-Yards……..||4-35||3-21|
EMU had a slight edge in time of possession, which obviously didn’t make a damned bit of difference. But in the first quarter, they actually had the ball for 10 and a half minutes. This was a combination of our own offensive inconsistency early on (PSU did not get a first down until the clock was below 4 minutes and we were already down 7 on the scoreboard!) I also felt the Eagles were doing really well on first down plays, which put our defense at a disadvantage.
But be that as it may, the defense allowed no points, held a second opponent to under 100 yards rushing, and held EMU to 3 of 16 on third down conversions. EMU punted 11 times!
The Drum major stuck both flips.
Cappalletti’s number 22 was retired at halftime in a ceremony that featured the 1973 undefeated squad, now celebrating their 40th anniversary of that milestone.
Bill O’Brien is 10-4 as head coach.
The Lions are 3-0 over EMU. I don’t give an Emmert’s ass about vacated crap. I was at both those previous games and we WON. You can draw your own asterisk here if that’s the kind of person you are.
THE BIG (TEN) PICTURE:
THEM held on to defeat the Irish 41-30 in the match-up of the week. However, the real surprise was Illinois taking out Cincinnati 45-17. Couple this with a Purdue “win” over Indiana State 20-14 (Indiana beat Indiana State 73-35 last week) and we can safely conclude that Purdue is not very good. Add to that the fact that the Hoosiers Cinderella season was shattered early when Navy sank the Battleship Indiana, 35-41, making the Hoosiers the lone losers this past weekend.
Wisconsin rolled out the barrel all over Tennessee Tech, 48-0, and have won 93-0 in the first two cupcake games. The Buckeyes got a fright as Toni Braxton went out with a knee, but the Columbus Titans beat the crap out of San Diego State 42-7. The Gophers are 2-0 with a win over New Mexico State 44-21. The Huskers shucked Southern Miss 56-13 and Michigan State hung on to beat the South Florida Bulls 21-6.
Future members Maryland and Rutgers both posted wins with the Terps beating Old Dominion 47-10 and Buttgers bouncing back with a 38-0 win over Norfolk State.
1. USC–lost to WSU 10-7.
2. Texas lost to BYU 40-21.
3. Florida lost to Miami 21-16.
4. West Virginia–almost beat Oklahoma but came up short 16-7.
Beaver Stadium becomes the site of a UCF Cage Fight next week at 6pm.
The magic number for UCF is 38.
They beat Akron 38-7 and Florida International Airport 38-0.
I don’t think they will score 38 this week.
GO STATE! BEAT KNIGHTS!