Penn State civilly outscored Akron 21-3 to move to 2-0 on the 2014 season. It was not a pretty sight, but it was not exactly an ugly win. And it sure as heck beat a pretty loss!
The invading Zips seemed hell-bent on raining on James Franklin’s home opener, as the visitors marched down the field like a hot knife through butter. They zipped this way and that way and ended up first and goal at the PSU 7 yard line before half the student population even made it to their seats. But the Lion defense tightened up, and after consecutive sacks, Akron had to settle for a 3 point attempt. Kicker Tom O’Leary (kind of ironic right there, doncha think?) missed the 31-yarder and the game was still even.
After an exchange of possessions, the Lions took over with good field position at their own 42 yard line. Hackenberg went to work and did that thing he does with his arm. Passes of 20 yards to Lewis and 15 yards to Hamilton were sandwiched around a one yard rush by Zwinak. Hack than scored his first of three TD passes with a strike to a wide open Belton that fooled the Akron defense and reportedly Louis Freeh as well.
The half would end with the score still being 7-0, and the crowd a bit uneasy. You hate close games like this when one play could turn things ugly in a hurry, and our secondary has been prone to giving up a few big plays now and then.
But there was no breathing room as the second half opened as Penn State fumbled on it’s first possession, setting the Roos up with a short field at the PSU 41 yard line. The defense bent a little but didn’t break, and Robert Stein (I guess O’Leary lost his job, at least for the moment) booted the 28 yarder through to make it a four point game.
After a change of possessions, Hack hit Jesse James for a 14-3 point lead. James would catch another pass in the fourth quarter to seal the victory at 21-3, covering the final game-time spread of 14.
So what can I say?
The running game just can’t seem to get off the ground. It’s a reflex to blame it on the offensive line, but the O-line does seem to be able to pass block pretty darn well. We did manage to break the century mark–which surprised me. Watching the game, I’d have thought we had under 60. We actually seemed to run better out of the wildcat, but that was in the second half and we may have worn the Akron line down by then. Reading the message boards, the wildcat formation splits Nittany Nation between those that love it and those that hate it. I don’t love it, but if it works, I’m all for it. I wonder if the playbook doesn’t have more options from that formation, particularly with Hack split wide and still on the field. We did see a throw back pass to Hack, but he couldn’t make the catch. Maybe more exciting possibilities await when Big Ten teams come to play.
Hack had two more INTs–not necessarily bad throws as much as BAD decisions. He also took a sack after having almost 9 seconds to find a receiver. I think those things will come in time–better decision making.
And the bottom line here Lion fans . . . we have played two games against quality opponents. Akron came to play and played us hard. Maybe they are not McNeese State, but they will win some ball games this year. Central Florida was coming off a great season with a veteran head coach and was a few votes away from cracking the Top 25 preseason. And despite a minus 5 turn-over margin, WE ARE UNDEFEATED. Not a lot of our conference brethren can say the same.
BY THE NUMBERS:
|NET YARDS RUSHING||69||106|
|Average Per Rush||2.8||3.4|
|Yards Gained Rushing||89||130|
|Yards Lost Rushing||20||24|
|NET YARDS PASSING||208||319|
|Average Per Attempt||4.5||8.6|
|Average Per Completion||8.7||14.5|
|TOTAL OFFENSE YARDS||277||425|
|Total offense plays||71||68|
|Average Gain Per Play||3.9||6.2|
|Average Yards Per Punt||47.3||48.8|
|Net Yards Per Punt||40.9||45.4|
|Average Yards Per Kickoff||65.0||61.8|
|Net Yards Per Kickoff||38.5||46.5|
|Punt returns: Number-Yards-TD||3-17-0||1-5-0|
|Average Per Return||5.7||5.0|
|Kickoff returns: Number-Yds-TD||2-36-0||2-53-0|
|Average Per Return||18.0||26.5|
|Fumble Returns: Number-Yds-TD||0-0-0||0-0-0|
|Third-Down Conversions||5 of 17||4 of 10|
|Fourth-Down Conversions||0 of 2||0 of 0|
|Sacks By: Number-Yards||1-8||4-14|
|Points off turnovers||6||0|
Penn State continues to look better on the stat sheet than the scoreboard. I really think that will get better as the season goes on, but perhaps it’s something to worry about.
Time of possession was nearly equal with a slight edge to PSU. Akron held the ball longer in the first half, but PSU dominated the second. Can’t complain about that.
We only converted 4-10 third downs, but we had 27 first downs–meaning that we moved the ball well on first and second downs that we only needed third down about a third of the time.
We were vastly improved in the penalty category this week.
The crowd was listed at 97,354, but it didn’t look that full.
The temperature was warm–not unusual for this time of year, but it could have been a factor if Akron could run the ball and control the clock. Depth is not our strong suit right now.
The Blue Band Drum Major stuck both flips. In fact, the opening flip may be the best I’ve seen in a while. New feature twirler. Meh.
James Franklin is 2-0, baby. Penn State is 5-0 over Akron all-time.
The 1994 UNDEFEATED PSU Football was honored at halftime!
Penn State won the toss and deferred.
THE BIG (TEN) PICTURE:
Well, well, well. Pretty rough weekend for the BIG party of 14.
Let’s start with the winners . . .
Iowa survived Ball State 17-13.
Nebraska squeaked by FCS McNeese State 31-24, scoring on a 58 yard catch and run to score with 20 seconds left in the game. Makes a 21-3 outing against Zippy look pretty darn good right about now.
Illinois beat Western Kentucky 42-34 but trailed 27-21 going into the fourth quarter.
Minnesota held off Middle Tennessee State, prevailing 35-24–but they were up 28-0 at the half!
Maryland outscored South Florida 24-17, but trailed going into the fourth quarter as well.
Rutgers defeated Howard (who Akron pasted 41-0) by a score of 38-25.
And Wisconsin bounced back by pummeling Western Illinois 37-3.
And then there were the losers . . .
Purdue tanked against Central Michigan, losing 38-17.
MSU had arguably the toughest opponent in Oregon with the Ducks ranked 3rd at the time. Michigan State trailed early, stormed back and seemed to be in control. And then they collapsed. Epic-ally. Final Score: 46-27. I wonder if D’Antonio has ever had that many points put up against one of his teams?
Notre Dame took THEM out to the woodshed, blanking the wolverines 31-0 in South Bend. Not even a field goal. I guess they were still upset about Notre Dame ending the series. The Irish might want to rethink that.
And the Big’s Marquee Stud, Ohio $tate, ranked number 8, fell to an unranked Hokie team 35-21. Meyer started his post game presser with this:
And also our opponent, really did a good job preparing for us and exposed us a little bit, where some of the weaknesses right now on our team. And it was rather obvious what it is.
Really? What was IT? The coaching, perhaps? Or are you throwing someone else under a Colum-BUS.
I wouldn’t have said this in 2011, but I am SOOOO glad that man isn’t coaching at Penn State.
Indiana was off, and no one noticed.
1. Stanford lost to USC–the famous Pat Haden game where the USC AD came down from the booth to “talk” to the referees. And he’s on the selection committee!
2. McNeese State–a few bad tackles away from OT. Tsk. tsk.
3. The Big Ten–see above
4. Texas–Longhorns beaten 41-7 by BYU
5. UMass–41-38 loss to Colorado
Penn State travels to Rutgers to open the Big Ten season next week.
Game Time is 8 PM and the coverage is the Big Ten Network.
Rutgers is 2-0 with a 41-38 win on the road over Washington State and a 38-25 victory over Howard.
We’ll preview this game in a Foe Pause later this week.
GO STATE! BEAT KNIGHTS!