Last week, Eastern Michigan opened their 2013 season with a come from behind victory over FCS Howard, in front of 7,000 fans. This Saturday, they were MACrificed in front of 92,000 by Penn State, to the tune of 45-7. As the clock wound towards zero in the fourth quarter, the Nittany Lions kept it on the ground while most of the two-deep clapped from the sidelines in ball caps.
BOB can't be thrilled with the result, however. For most of three quarters, the EMU Eagles made it a contest. In fact, the Eagles struck first, scooping up a Christian Hackenberg fumble, and returning it for a touchdown in the first quarter. Penn State's first three offensive possessions went as follows: 3-and-out, 3-and-out, and Fumble. The Lions registered their first 1st down on game snap #37, with just over three minutes remaining in the first quarter. They finished just 1 for 10 on 3rd down for the game. Ken Barna was offered a bookmaking job in Las Vegas at halftime, where elastic waist khakis aren't looked down upon.
But the Eagles ran out of gas late in the third quarter. They began a drive at their own 12 yard line, and promptly lost five yards on three plays, thanks to a suffocating Penn State defense. A short punt and a 13-yard return by PSU's Von Walker gave Penn State the ball at the EMU 33. From there, Hackenberg scrambled for 15 on first down, and then was sacked twice. Facing a 3rd and 24, BOB called a draw, hoping Zwinak could position the offense for another Ficken kick. Instead, Zwinak rumbled 20 yards, down to the EMU 12 yard line, prompting BOB to roll the dice on 4th and 4. Hackenberg connected with Brandon Felder for 5 yards to convert, and Zwinak took the next carry off left tackle seven yards for the score, untouched. Game, set, match, at that point, with the Lions holding a 24-7 lead.
The optimist can point to the defensive shutout, the 5 TD margin of victory, the net 400 yard advantage, and a freshman-record 311 passing yards by Hackenberg, and feel good. The pessimist can note the inefficiency on offense, the minus 2 turnover margin, and the disturbing ease with which EMU completed crossing routes early, and be concerned. Both views, paradoxically, are correct at this juncture. We get the final verdict in four months.
Three Completely Unrelated, Probably Useless Thoughts
1) For just the 5th time in the last 10 years, the Penn State Nittany Lions begin the season 2 and 0. The last time the Lions started a season 2-0 was 2009, beating Akron 31-7 and Syracuse 28-7.
2) Sam Ficken tops Penn State's list for consecutive field goals made, with 14. He last missed eleven months ago, October 20th, 2012, at Iowa.
3) Eastern Michigan blitzed hardly ever last year. In the first half against Penn State, they blitzed all the time. Until Penn State can handle it better, and burn the opponent more consistently, they're going to see the same thing from everyone else.
More from Black Shoe Diaries:
- Penn State to Retire #22
- Welcome to the Future: Penn State 45, Eastern Michigan 7
- Fourth and Long: An Exclusive Excerpt
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