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CFN Take: Penn State Bombs Away On Badgers
Penn State Nittany Lions 2013 ...
Head Coach: Bill O'Brien
Penn State Nittany
Penn State 31, at Wisconsin 24
| 2013 Record: 7-5 |
8/31 Syracuse W 23-17
(in East Rutherford)
9/7 Eastern Michigan W 45-7
9/14 UCF L 34-31
9/21 Kent State W 34-0
9/28 OPEN DATE
10/5 at Indiana L 44-24
10/12 Michigan W 43-40 4OT
10/19 OPEN DATE
10/26 at Ohio State L 63-14
11/2 Illinois W 24-17 OT
11/9 at Minnesota L 24-10
11/16 Purdue W 45-21
11/23 Nebraska L 23-20 OT
11/30 at Wisconsin W 31-24
Basically … Christian Hackenberg threw four touchdown passes, starting out with a 68-yard scoring play to Adam Breneman and with two to Geno Lewis from three and 59 yards away on the way to a 31-14 lead. Penn State’s D hung on as the Badgers rallied back with ten points and had the ball late, but a last gasp throw into the end zone was picked off. Brian Wozniak caught touchdown passes from four and five yards away for the Badgers, who were held to just 120 yards rushing.
- Penn State QB Christian Hackenberg completed 21-of-30 passes for 339 yards and four scores
- Wisconsin QB Joel Stave completed 29-of-53 passes for 339 yards and three touchdowns with three interceptions.
- Wisconsin WR Jared Abbrederis caught 12 passes for 135 yards. Melvin Gordon and James White combined for 147 yards.
- Penn State RB Zach Zwinak ran 22 times for 115 yards, and Allen Robinson caught eight passes for 122 yards.
Nebraska 23, at Penn State 20 OT
Basically … Nebraska’s Pat Smith hit a 19-yard field goal late in the fourth quarter to tie the game, and he made the 42-yard field goal in overtime, while Sam Ficken missed his 37-yard opportunity. Ficken also missed an extra point early on after Adam Breneman caught a two-yard touchdown pass. Christian Hackenberg ran for a seven-yard score and threw two touchdown passes, with a 46-yarder to Jesse James in the fourth, but Nebraska kept up with Kenny Bell returning a kickoff for a score and with Quincy Enunwa catching a 27-yard touchdown pass. Smith finished with three field goals.
- Nebraska QB Ron Kellogg III completed 20-of-34 passes for 191 yards and a score.
- Penn State QB Christian Hackenberg completed 16-of-33 passes for 217 yards and two touchdowns with a pick and he ran for a score.
- Penn State RB Zach Zwinak ran 35 times for 149 yards.
- Nebraska RB Ameer Abdullah ran 25 times for 147 yards.
at Penn State 45, Purdue 21
Basically … Penn State took control early on short touchdown runs from Bill Belton and Zach Zwinak, and stayed comfortably ahead on two more Zwinak scoring runs and an eight-yard Adam Breneman touchdown catch. Purdue kept it from being a blowout on a two-yard Justin Sinz catch and was helped by a kickoff return for a score from Raheem Mostert, but the defense couldn’t get off the field. The Boilermakers threatened with an 11-yard Danny Etling run to pull within seven in the third, but Penn State scored 17 unanswered points.
- Penn State RB Zach Zwinak ran 26 times for 149 yards and three scores.
- Penn State outgained Purdue 289 rushing yards to 38
- Purdue QB Danny Etling completed 21-of-33 passes for 223 yards and a score with a pick.
- Penn State converted 10-of-12 third down chances and held the ball for 36:29. Purdue converted 4-of-11 third down tries.
at Minnesota 24, Penn State 10
Basically … Minnesota got up 10-0 early on a one-yard David Cobb touchdown run and a 45-yard Chris Hawthorne field goal, and controlled the second quarter with Phillip Nelson running for a score and completing a 24-yard touchdown pass to Maxx Williams with 17 seconds to play. Neither team scored in the second half with Penn State getting stopped time and again on third downs and only getting in the end zone in the first half on a six-yard Zach Zwinak touchdown run.
- Penn State converted just one of nine third down chances. Minnesota converted nine of 17 tries. The Gophers converted all three of their fourth down tries, while Penn State converted just one of three chances.
- Minnesota QB Phillip Nelson completed 15-of-24 passes for 186 yards and a score, and he ran 12 times for 40 yards and a touchdown. David Cobb ran 27 times for 139 yards and a score.
- Penn State WR Allen Robinson led the team with seven catches, but they went for just 63 yards. Christian Hackenberg completed 14-of-25 passes for 163 yards.
- Penn State committed just nine penalty for ten yards. Penn State committed five penalties for 45 yards.
at Penn State 24, Illinois 17, Nov. 2
Basically … Christian Hackenberg connected with TE Kyle Carter for the go-ahead score in overtime, and Ryan Keiser picked off a tipped Nathan Scheelhaase throw to secure the Penn State win. The Nittany Lions led for most of the game, but Illinois rallied to take the lead on a Scheelhaase to Josh Ferguson flip with 5:30 left. Lion Sam Ficken sent the game to an extra session with a field goal with 41 seconds left in regulation.
- Hackenberg completed 20-of-32 passes for 240 yards and a touchdown.
- Scheelhaase finished 33-of-52 for 322 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions, adding 35 yards rushing on eight carries.
- RB Bill Belton became the first Lion since 2002 to rush for more than 200 yards, turning 36 carries into 201 yards and a touchdown.
- Penn State WR Allen Robinson led all receivers with 11 receptions for 165 yards.
at Ohio State 63, Penn State 14
Basically … Ohio State rolled at will, coming up with the first 28 points of the game as Braxton miller ran for two scores and hit Chris Fields for a three-yard score. Carlos Hyde started out the scoring with a two-yard run and added a 39-yarder, and then Miller went back to work with touchdown passes for Philly Brown and Dontre Wilson before calling it a day midway through the third quarter. Penn State broke up the scoring with a 12-yard Brandon Felder touchdown catch, but the Nittany Lions were down 63-7 before Allen Robinson caught a 65-yard touchdown pass in the fourth.
- Penn State was supposed to be able to bomb away on the mediocre OSU secondary, but Christian Hackenberg was under constant pressure and completed just 12-of-23 passes for 112 yards and a score with two picks. Call this his Welcome To The Big Time moment. Allen Robinson caught 12 passes for 173 yards and a score, but that’s hardly a silver lining.
- After two weeks off, the Nittany Lions weren’t exactly sharp and they didn’t appear rested. Fortunately, Illinois is up next before going to Minnesota and facing Purdue. There’s still time to come up with a great record, and Ohio State is Ohio State, but the defense has to be far, far tighter in a big hurry, and the offense has to be more consistent.
at Penn State 43, Michigan 40 4OT
Basically … Bill Belton ran it in from two yards out to give Penn State an improbable win in the fourth overtime. The Nittany Lions needed a miracle just to get past regulation with Christian Hackenberg sneaking it in from a yard out to cap off an 80-yard drive in the final minute, highlighted by a 36-yard jump ball completion to Allen Robinson to set up the score. Michigan had a shot at the win, but a 52-yard Brendan Gibbons field goal came up just short. In the first overtime, Gibbons had a chance to win it, but his field goal attempt was blocked. The two teams traded field goals in the second overtime, and following a Penn State fumble in the third, Michigan had yet another chance to win, but Gibbons pushed his 33-yard attempt wide. Gibbons connected on his 40-yard field goal try in the fourth, but Penn State, after converting on a fourth-and-1, got a pass interference call to set up the game-winning touchdown.
- It’s not like Christian Hackenberg wasn’t already playing like a franchise star, but when you can pull a win like this out of your … hat, it makes everyone a believer. Penn State had no business winning this game, and he might not have been great in overtime, but his drive at the end of regulation was a classic.
- It’s hard to classify this as a true choke for Michigan. Penn State made some phenomenal plays, and there wasn’t too much the Wolverines could do late. The overtimes were disastrous, failing to get into the end zone in the four frames, and the two misfires on game-winning field goal attempts will be haunting. Not coming up with the fourth down stop in the fourth overtime, and the ticky-tack pass interference call will sting as the coaches go over the film.
- Can Penn State thrive on the giant killer role? Beating Michigan at home was nice, but coming up with an upset over Ohio State on the road in two weeks would be truly special. The team isn’t that good – it should’ve lost to Michigan on several different occasions – but it gets to play like there’s nothing to lose. It worked this week.
- The wild finish/collapse overshadowed a terrific day from Devin Gardner, who only completed 15-of-28 passes, but they went for 240 yards with three scores. He ran for 121 yards on 25 carries, making up for a disastrous day from Fitzgerald Toussaint, who ran 27 times for 27 yards.
at Indiana 44, Penn State 24
Basically … Down 21-17 going into the fourth quarter, Indiana blew up for 23 points with quarterback Tre Roberson running for two short scores and fellow QB Nate Sudfeld coming up with a 36-yard scoring play to Kofi Hughes on the way to the program’s first win ever against the Nittany Lions. Penn State got a big day out of Christian Hackenberg, who threw for three scores including two to Allen Robinson, but he and the offense only managed a 14-yard touchdown pass to Bill Belton during IU’s fourth quarter run.
- The Indiana two quarterback system worked. It’s not like Tre Roberson can’t throw, but he stepped in and ran for two scores late, while Nate Sudfeld completed 23-of-38 passes for 321 yards and two scores with a pick. The fourth quarter explosion is how the offense is supposed to work when everything is humming.
- Christian Hackenberg threw 55 times and came up with 340 yards and three scores, but he was under constant pressure and he didn’t get much help from a ground game that finished with just 70 yards. The stats look worse than the running game was, but Zach Zwiniak was bottled up for most of the day. Allen Robinson tried to pick up the slack with 12 catches for 173 yards and two scores.
- Indiana actually played a little bit of defense. There might have only been one sack, but the Hoosiers got into the backfield time and again and did a nice job of generating pressure when they had to. Even with Allen Robinson putting up big numbers, corner Tim Bennett came up with a whale of a game making key open field stops and breaking up several passes.
- And now there’s a problem. Obviously Penn State can’t go to a bowl, so the record doesn’t matter, but this was supposed to be a layup with Michigan and Ohio State coming up next. The schedule eases up for a while, but it’s going to be a fight now to finish with a winning record. To come up with a win over the next few weeks, the offensive line will need to be far stronger for the ground game.
at Penn State 34, Kent State 0
Basically … Bill Belton took a pass 15 yards for a score and Zach Zwinak ran for three scores as Penn State ran with ease past the Golden Flashes. Sam Ficken added fourth quarter field goals from 25 and 54 yards. Kent State managed just nine first downs and 190 yards of total offense.
- If Christian Hackenberg was going to have a clunker, this might as well be the time. He completed 13-of-35 passes for 176 yards with a touchdown and a pick, struggling with his accuracy. It’s not like he was under a ton of pressure; it was simply a bad game because of the rain and poor conditions.
- Kent State might not have any offensive pop, and it really doesn’t have much for the attack when the weather is bad – the power running game wasn’t going to fly against Penn State. The Golden Flashes came up with just 56 rushing yards.
- The Penn State defense took it to the KSU backfield. There wasn’t any time for the Golden Flash offense to work helped by three sacks and plenty of pressure. Defensive backs Ryan Keiser and Jordan Lucas clamped down on everything.
- Luke Wollett made 11 tackles, and Roosevelt Nix made a few nice plays into the backfield, but the KSU D isn’t doing enough to make up for the lack of a consistent O.
UCF 34, at Penn State 31, Sept. 14
Basically … Blake Bortles threw three touchdown passes and Storm Johnson ran for a 58-yard score and caught a four-yard touchdown pass as UCF hung on to beat Penn State. The Nittany Lions rallied back late with a five-yard Allen Robinson touchdown catch, but the Knights were able to hang on.
- Blake Bortles was the type of veteran quarterback UCF needed in a game in a hostile environment. He threw a pick, but he made every other right decision, frustrating the Nittany Lions with key pass after key pass to keep the offense moving. He led the way to 507 yards of UCF offense.
- Christian Hackenberg continues to be fantastic. He didn’t throw any picks, and he rallied the team back late and almost pulled it off. He completed 21-of-28 passes for 262 yards with a touchdown, and once again he looked more mature than his age.
- The Penn State defensive front struggled with the UCF quickness up front. Storm Johnson came up with 117 yards on 17 carries, but the ground game kept on slinking for four yards a pop here and there, and Jeff Godfrey came up with a big dash.
- Zach Zwinak ran for three touchdowns and pounded out 128 yards, but he lost a key fumble late when Penn State was rallying.
at Penn State 45, Eastern Michigan 7, Sept. 7
Basically … Eastern Michigan scored first on an 11-yard fumble return for a score in the first quarter, and it was all Penn State after that with 45 unanswered points. Zach Zwinak and Bill Belton each ran for two scores, with Belton tearing off a 51-yarder, and Christian Hackenberg found Allen Robinson for a 45-yard touchdown.
- The Penn State defense played like the Penn State defense of last year, stopping the run time and time again and not allowing any big plays. The Nittany Lions gave up just 183 yards of total offense.
- Christian Hackenberg threw a pick – that was about the only bad mark on the freshman’s second game. He completed 23-of-33 passes for 311 yards and a score, and once again he looked poised beyond his years. So far he’s more than the real deal.
- Eastern Michigan can complete passes, but they don’t go anywhere. Tyler Benz has to start pushing the ball down the field a little bit to take more chances. He completed 17 of 26 throws, but they only went for 115 yards.
- Glenn Carson made ten tackles with a half a sack, but once again, the star of the Penn State defense was DaQuan Jones in the middle with nine tackles and a sack. He was a disruptive force, while Eastern Michigan’s Hunter Matt did everything he could with a team-leading seven tackles, two sacks and a forced fumble.
Penn State 23, Syracuse 17, Aug. 31
Basically … Christian Hackenberg threw two interceptions, but he also had a strong debut throwing for 278 yards with two scores including a 51-yarder to Allen Robinson and a 54-yarder to Geno Lewis. Syracuse’s running game was held in check, but Jerome Smith managed touchdown runs from ten yards out in the third and one yard away in the fourth. Sam Ficken nailed three field goals for the Nittany Lions.
- This was hardly a thing of beauty in any way. Penn State turned it over four times and only converted one of 16 third down chances, but the defense held firm time and again and Hackenberg came up with a big win in his first start. He showed off the deep ball accuracy and the poise that made him one of the nation’s top recruits.
- The Syracuse passing game couldn’t find any consistency. Drew Allen completed 16-of-37 passes for 189 yards and two scores, and while he connected on a few big plays, he didn’t get the chains moving.
- Penn State DT Da’Quan Jones came up with a monstrous performance. He not only led the team with 8.5 tackles for loss, but he got into the backfield time and again and gummed up the works against a strong Syracuse ground attack.
- Jerome Smith ran for 73 yards and two scores for the Orange, and came up with a few nice runs, but there was rarely anywhere to go. P.T. Gulley ranfor just 24 yards on 12 carries.
Why To Be Excited: After last year, trying to deal with adversity this season should be a piece of cake. For the most part the focus is on football – as much as it can be – allowing Bill O’Brien to spend more time on trying to build up a team that’s not going to feel the effects of the sanctions personnel-wise for another season or so. With 16 returning starters and enough holdover prospects to provide a little bit of depth, it should be like a more normal football season up until the end of November. O’Brien had far bigger problems last season.
Why To Be Grouchy: The offensive line that was such a key part to the success last season gets the left side back intact with tackle Donovan Smith and guard Miles Dieffenbach leading the way, but the right side needs a few replacements and center Matt Stankiewitch is done. Defensively, the linebacking corps is going to be a focus with Michael Mauti and Gerald Hodges done. Glenn Carson and Mike Hull are good ones to start with, but with tackle Jordan Hill and end Sean Stanley done, it’s going to take a little while to find the right pieces for the front seven.
What Needs Working On: Special teams. The quarterback situation will be the biggest key to the spring session with Steven Bench and JUCO transfer Tyler Ferguson trying to show what they can do before super-recruit Christian Hackenberg arrives on campus, but for a team that’s likely going to be involved in several close battles, the special teams have to be better. The return game was abysmal finishing last in the league in kickoff returns and near the bottom in punt returns, while the punting game averaged a mere 34.45 yards per punt. Kicker Sam Ficken is mostly known for the Virginia game, but he rallied and finished hitting 14-of-21 kicks.
Non-Conference Games: Syracuse (in New Jersey), Eastern Michigan, UCF, Kent State
Games Against The Legends: Michigan, at Minnesota, Nebraska
Realistic Best Case Record: 8-4
Worst Case Record: 4-8
Likely Finish: 6-6
Pre-Preseason Projected Wins: Syracuse, Eastern Michigan, Kent State, at Indiana, Illinois, Purdue
Pre-Preseason Projected Losses: UCF, Michigan, at Ohio State, at Minnesota, Nebraska, at Wisconsin
Schedule Analysis: Can the Nittany Lions recreate the on-field magic of last year? They start out with an even tougher task than Ohio playing Syracuse in East Rutherford, New Jersey. Eastern Michigan will be a good chance to get all the pieces together before a rougher-than-it-looks home game against UCF followed up with a Kent State squad that should be almost as good as the one that almost went to the BCS. It’ll be tough to get to 4-0, but it’s possible before getting a week off to prepare for the Big Ten season.
It’s a bad break to have to play both Michigan and Nebraska from the Legends, but at least the two big games are at home. The road trip to Indiana to start things off is a must win with Michigan and an away game at Ohio State to follow, but there’s a week off to prepare for the Buckeyes. Illinois, at Minnesota and Purdue is the light section that needs to be taken advantage of with Nebraska and a road game at Wisconsin to close out the year.
Team Concerns For 2013: Beyond the ongoing issues of the university and the image problem, on the field, the Nittany Lions have to keep pressing forward by getting production from young players who'll now get more and more of a shot considering all the restrictions going forward. Getting the quarterback situation settled with Matt McGloin gone will be the first goal after a shocking year for a passing game that went from miserable to excellent. The special teams have to be better after an awful year punting averaging just 34.5 yards per kick and a paltry 18 yards per kickoff return.
The 2013 Class Is Heavy On ... Hackenberg to Breneman. Bill O'Brien is doing what he can considering all the program's problems and restrictions - who wants to sign up to play a career full of exhibition games? Even so, getting superstar quarterback prospect Christian Hackenberg and tight end Adam Breneman would make this a successful class even in normal times. The problem is going to be the lack of depth, and O'Brien can't miss. Recruits for the next few years have to be ready to rock and roll and have to be part of the depth chart as soon as possible, but it's still a tough overall sell. The
defensive line is getting some help with Garrett Sickels a good-looking pass rusher and Curtis Cothran a potentially excellent end.
There are some nice talents across the board - linebacker Zayd Issah will be a player
- but if Hackenberg and Breneman aren't great, this class will be average at best.
2012 CFN Recruiting Ranking:
55. That Class Was Heavy On ... Whatever head coach Bill O’Brien can get. A few prospects have said they wanted to come to Penn State no matter what, but for the most part, the top players are staying away from the mess. This is hardly a disastrous recruiting season considering all the problems with few good receivers signing on and the defensive line is getting a few three-star types, but this isn’t nearly the type of class the program is used to getting.
2011 CFN Recruiting Ranking: 34. That Class Was Heavy On ... Offensive linemen. Not since the Derrick Williams class of 2005 has Penn State brought in a group of receivers like this with Bill Belton, Matt Zanellato and Allen Robinson all good enough to be the No. 1 target. The defensive front should be stronger with Shawn Oakman and Deion Barnes on the end and Ben Kline at linebacker, but the focus is on the offensive front as Donovan Smith leads a phenomenal group of talents. Angelo Mangiro is one of the nation’s best guards, and Anthony Zettel isn’t far behind. Tackle Anthony Alosi might start right away.
2010 CFN Recruiting Ranking: 14. That Class Was
Heavy On ... Linebackers. Are
top prospects worried about the Joe Paterno era
ending any time soon? Hardly. Only three linebackers
were signed, but it would've be a stunner if Mike
Hull in the middle and Khairi Fortt and Dakota Royer
on the outside form the nation's best corps going
into the 2013 season. Hull was the nation's top
inside prospect and he should be the program's next
great linebacker. DaQuan Jones and Evan Hailes are
ready-made 300-pounders for the inside of the line,
while C.J. Olaniyan is a speed rusher for the
outside. Offensively, Paul Jones is one of the
nation's best quarterback prospects, but that didn't
stop Robert Bolden, a passer who'd make the
recruiting season for about 100 other programs, from
2009 CFN Recruiting Ranking: 11. That Class Was
Heavy On ... receivers. The strength of the class is at offensive tackle, but the immediate need was at receiver with Derrick Williams, Deon Butler and Jordan Norwood gone. Joe Paterno and his staff aren’t going to ask the incoming freshmen to step in and start right away, but it would be nice if Justin Brown, Shawney Kersey, Brandon Felder, Devon Smith and Christian Kuntz were able to push for potential playing time. Brown is the star of the bunch, but Kersey and Smith are the speedsters who could make a more immediate impact.