This game was pretty boring. Not many other ways to put it. I know this because half of the press box today was falling asleep. The first half was full of poorly executed offense, save for 2 drives that took what seemed like a combined 45 seconds. Hackenberg played like a freshman QB in the rain, which is fair because he was a freshman QB in the rain. Despite how surprisingly awesome he's been right off the bat, we still need to all realize that he's going to continue to need time to grow, and we may be expecting too much right away. I know I am. I told Bill on the way to the game, that Hack was going to throw for 450 yards today. And I wasn't even drinking!
Okay, but back to the game. The defense played fantastic. In all phases. They truly locked down in every aspect (Aside from Trevor Williams, but we'll get there). Kent State was held to just 190 total yards of offense, and it seemed like it was even less. Ryan Keiser played out of his mind, leading his squad in this one. He, along with Jordan Lucas, really stood out in the secondary today. While they were busy locking down the Kent State offense, the Penn State offense finally got to work in the 2nd half. Zwinak picked up the 2nd 2 of his 3 touchdowns on the day (which makes it two weekends in a row he has had a 3 touchdown game). Aside from those runs, Sam Ficken hit 2 field goals. One of which just missed tying a Penn State record (But we'll also get to that later). All in all, Penn State dominated this one start to finish, even if at some points in the first half, it didn't quite seem like it.
Anyways, on to the grades!
Christian Hackenberg did not play very well today. He finished up with 176 yards on 13/35 passing, with a touchdown and an interception. Coming into this game, his completion percentage was tops in the B1G. After this weekend it probably won't be. He was very inaccurate on many of his passes all day, and probably should have thrown 3 picks or more on the day, to be honest. This was another learning experience for Hackenberg, as the conditions of each game seem to bring a new challenge. First, playing his first college game. Then, playing his first Beaver Stadium game. Then, playing his first night game. Now, playing his first game in the rain. He's still in the freshman buffer zone, so I'll give him a pass. But I still expect better than what we got today.
Running Backs: A+
As Bill tweeted at one point, "We got the good Bill Belton today". When that happens, this running game is damn near impossible to stop. Having the 1-2 punch of Zwinak and Belton alone is lethal enough, but when you add in Big Maple? Akeel Lynch looked insanely impressive today, nearly busting off a 70 yard touchdown run on his second carry of the game. You have to think that he's playing his way into earlier playing time for the coming weeks. Oh, and Zach Zwinak had another 3 touchdowns. But that's normal at this point. For the game, Lynch picked up 123 yards on 14 carries, Belton had 90 yards on 13 carries, and Zwinak had 65 yards on 15 carries with 3 touchdowns.
Wide Receivers: A
When Hack gave them a catch-able ball, they caught it. Unfortunately for their statistical purposes, that wasn't all that often. A-Rob and Felder each did as much with their catches as they could, each catching 3 passes for 43 and 35 yards, respectively. The only other receiver to catch a pass was Richy Anderson, who danced his way to a first down, showing some nice open field moves. The unit as a whole didn't get much work today thanks to poor passes, and a dominant running game, but like I said, they made their opportunities count.
Tight Ends: A-
Nice to see the tight ends finally get involved in the game today. Carter, Breneman, and James all had catches, and seemed to dominate the middle of the field all game long. It seems that Hack is slowly gaining trust in his valuable, giant pass catchers, which is huge. Hack is still growing as a QB, and still getting comfortable with the offense, and he's still learning how to use his tight ends effectively. But for now, they are taking advantage of their opportunities.
Offensive Line: B
I'm torn on the offensive line today. They looked great run blocking (Although the sheer awesomeness of the running backs made them look even better). But Hack was getting harassed for the majority of this game, either being hurried, knocked down, or sacked. There were a ton of lapses, especially on the right side of the line where Adam Gress/Garry Gilliam were patrolling.
Defensive Line: A-
As unimpressive as the offensive line was to me, that's how impressive the defensive line was in my eyes. Deion Barnes finally played, somewhat, to his potential. He finally picked up his first half sack of the season, and was showing great burst off the snap all game. DaQuan Jones/Austin Johnson/Kyle Baublitz did a great job plugging the holes in the run game, as Kent State never got much going, aside from a few solid runs.
The linebackers didn't stand out much to me today, aside from a few plays. Carson was his typical, steady self. Wartman finally came out of his shell a little bit, and made a few plays, even almost coming up with an interception. Obeng-Agyapong played fine in Hull's spot, and Ben Kline played well in limited time as well. Butler unveiled a few new wrinkles in the defense this week, putting all 4 of them on the field at once, giving opposing teams a little more to think about when watching the tape. When Hull comes back next week, this unit should only continue to improve.
Defensive Backs: A-
This grade would probably be an A+, if not for Trevor Williams. He was constantly abused in coverage, and is making me re-think my blind faith in him becoming a stud cornerback. Adria Amos replaced him at the corner spot multiple times, which is worrisome. However, clearly those blown coverages didn't hurt the team too much, because Kent State didn't score. Aside from Williams, the secondary was brilliant. Amos continued to be the best tackler on the Penn State team. Jordan Lucas was fantastic in coverage, blowing up multiple pass plays. Ryan Keiser had the game of his life, getting one interception, and nearly getting 2 more. He was constantly all over the field, including a tackle behind the line of Colin Reardon for a 2 yard loss. When your safety is making plays behind the line, that's a true sign of elite play diagnostic skills. As I said during the game, Kesier played like a man who wants to remove an OR from his position on the Depth Chart.
Special Teams: A+++
Thanks to Sam Ficken alone. I won't waste your time here to once again profess my love for Sam Ficken, because you probably know plenty about it already. But seriously. 4/4 on PAT's, and 2/2 on Field Goals. AND ONE OF THEM WAS 54 YARDS. 5. 4. 54. 54 YARDS. Sam Ficken is going to be an NFL kicker. Go back in time and tell yourself that the day after the Virginia game. And stop by and give me money to help pay for his jersey I bought that day, I could use that cash now. Aside from Ficken, Hackenberg had a great punt, the kickoff coverage was solid, and the kick return game didn't screw anything up. Sounds like an A+++ to me.
Bill didn't impress me much in this game. Especially later in the game, when Penn State already had the game in hand. There was one series in particular, that O'Brien dialed up 3 straight passing plays, all of which failed, and gave the ball straight back to the Golden Flashes. He hasn't seemed to have quite that same genius that he had last season so far. Whether that's because of having a freshman QB, or trying to introduce some new things in the offense, he just doesn't seem the same. I expect him to pick it up as the year goes on, but I wasn't overly impressed today. Bill wasn't very pleased with his playcalling either, which was clear in his post-game press conference (From which I will be posting quotes tomorrow, along with some player interviews).
Follow @BSDtweet on Twitter
And join us on Facebook
All BSD community members should review our current Posting & Commenting Policies before creating any posts or commenting.