This week was a hard one for me. Multiple players stepped up when the team needed them to, and the Nittany Lions rolled out of East Rutherford with a win. But after stepping back and analyzing the game, along with my expectations for individual players headed into this matchup, there was really only one MVP for me: SOA.
8 tackles (5 solo), 1 sack, 1 interception, 1 forced fumble, 1 fumble recovery
SOA, a Bronx native, came home to play in front of a host of family and friends and walked out of Met Life having had a career day. He was inserted into the game at linebacker after Mike Hull went out with injury, a position he'd never played in a PSU game before August 31--and almost immediately showed why BOB alluded to a possible position change for the senior this summer.
Going into the 2013 season, SOA had played his entire Penn State career at safety, having started every game in 2012 at that position. This offseason, though, he found himself passed on the depth chart when Defensive Coordinator John Butler moved junior Adrian Amos from corner, and BOB announced that senior Malcom Willis and junior Ryan Keiser were duking it out for the other starting safety position. This may not have been as dire a situation as it seemed previously for the Penn State graduate (he got his degree in May), as he seemed almost a natural fit at the hybrid LB position tin the first game of the season.
There were very few who had high expectations for SOA headed into this game. He had previously played respectively, but rarely stellar; he wasn't high on the depth chart; he had whiffed on tackles in the past, and some had maligned the angles he took or his ability to wrap up receivers. None of that mattered this week, as he surpassed the expectations of even the more optimistic of us.
His game wasn't perfect, but that was to be expected when inserted into a new position. You know, though, that you have someone special on your hands when the entire press box lets out a collective "OOOOHH" when he delivers a perfect form, hard hit on a Syracuse player.
With Stephen's play this week, I am slightly less concerned about linebacker depth. Which is saying something...both about the coaching staff, and about SOA's play.
K Sam Ficken (3 of 3 FGs; 2 of 2 XPs) Ficken picked up where he left off last year, and O'Brien rewarded him with specific shout outs in the locker room and the post-game presser. Kicking is no longer a weakness on this team. $am Ficken, indeed.
QB Christian Hackenberg (22 of 31 for 278 yards, 2 TD, 2 INT) Very few of us knew what we'd see on Saturday in terms of quarterback play. We knew we had talent--would that translate into production on the field? It definitely did, as Hackenberg showed time and again why he was the top-rated QB in the class of '13. He made a few rookie mistakes, to be expected, but overall led the Lions to victory. What more can we ask for?
WR Allen Robinson (7 recs, 133 yards, 1TD) BTN's the Final Drive called it "the Allen Robinson Effect". As soon as the returning B1G Receiver of the Year was inserted into the game in the second half, he became Hack's security blanket, catching nearly half the passes in that half and drawing more attention from the Cuse coaches than any other receiver. Let's just hope that whatever he did to get himself suspended for the first half won't ever happen again.
DT DaQuan Jones (9 tackles, 3 TFL) We've heard a lot going into this season of how good Jones was, how he had the talent and technique and how he was LJ Senior's next big man to be drafted high into the league. How did Jones respond to the pressure of being the new anchor on the line? Oh, NBD, just a career day for the senior. If he has many more of these, he'll be in the top three rounds easy.
More from Black Shoe Diaries:
- Ficken, Hackenberg Garner B1G Player of the Week Honors
- B1G Recap: Week One
- GoPSUSports Shop Allows You To Cherish "23-17" Forever
- Post-Game Link Dump- Syracuse
- Hey, Wha Happen? Penn State 23, Syracuse 17
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