Well that got exciting rather quickly. I forgot how nice it was to win the opener for the season.
In what started off as a disappointing bout, this game took a turn for the better in the 2nd half. The first quarter featured a grand total of 0 points combined between the two teams. It wasn't until the 2nd quarter that the field goals started flying. Ficken hit 35 and 36 yarders, while Ross Krautman hit a 32 yarder for the Orange. Aside from those scores, the first half was nothing to get excited about, featuring a few turnovers, one by Ferguson, in his only appearance today, one on a Hackenberg interception, and one on a Steven Obeng-Agyapong forced fumble and fumble recovery.
The second half provided far more fireworks. Allen Robinson returned for the second half of play after not participating in the first half, due to apparent disciplinary reasons. And it was like he never left at all. ARob finished with a casual 133 yards, on 7 catches and a touchdown. However, Cuse was able to answer right back with a touchdown of their own, after a longggg gain on a blown coverage by Malcolm Willis. I'm sure we'd all like to see more from the senior leader in the secondary. However, Penn State was able to bounce back with a 46 yard field goal from Ficken, before Hackenberg unloaded on a 54 yard touchdown pass to Geno Lewis. You should get used to seeing that, because it's going to happen quite often over the next few years. Cuse came back and scored another touchdown to put the score deficit to 6, but Penn State was able to hold on thanks to a Trevor Williams interception (As I predicted), to seal the deal. More analysis will come for this game later on, but for now, let's move to the grades.
I was tempted to make this grade an A- because I was truly, truly impressed with Christian Hackenberg today. The only reason I moved the grade down to the B category, was due to the freshman mistakes. He threw a few silly passes that turned into interceptions, and 100% expect passes like that to be wiped out of his arsenal before long. Aside from those picks though, Hackenberg played a hell of a game. He was accurate all day, showed good poise in the pocket, and showed why he was the #1 QB recruit.
Running Backs: B-
I was not impressed with Zwinak today at all. It was partially due to the the very poor offensive line play when they ran it (I'll get to that later), but I didn't see the same burst I saw last year. He was stuffed often today, and didn't provide the power I expected. Belton was ineffective. And to my knowledge, Lynch didn't even receive a carry. I was unimpressed with the backs today, as a whole.
Wide Receivers: A-
Allen. Robinson. Dude only played a half of football, and still balled out. If anyone thought he wasn't the key to this offense, they should understand after today. Felder and Lewis played great in his absence, but Robinson is on a whole new level. He is a truly one of the best offensive player in the country, and there should be not doubt after what he did on his first drive alone. This group is going to be scary fun to watch this year.
Tight Ends: C+
For all the hype, I was disappointed with the tight ends today. Lehman and James combined for 4 catches, providing the entirety of their offense. The didn't seem to help much in the run game either. I was expecting Carter to get a few more passes, but it just didn't happen. Whether that was due to A-Rob's dominance, or what, it was disappointing to see. Hopefully we'll see some matchup exploitations in Beaver Stadium next weekend.
Offensive Line: C+
I hated the O-Line today. They showed flashes in the pass blocking game, as Hack had plenty of time to work, but the run blocking was atrocious. The Cuse linemen were routinely in the backfield to hit Zwinak/Belton early, and stop any significant run from occurring. They were getting very little push, which was very sad to see out of what is supposed to be one of our better offensive lines in recent memory. I would expect them to get an earful out of Mac this week.
Defensive Line: B+
DaQuan Jones must have heard about his ranking as the #1 senior defensive tackle, because he played quite well today. He got great push through the line on multiple occasions. Barnes and Olanyian also showed potential in the run game, providing much more support in that regard than they did last year. I was pleasantly surprised by the area of the team that I thought would be a problem area.
Glenn Carson went OFF today. As opposed to last year, when I don't think I heard his name once, he was everywhere today. Hull (While in the game) and Wartman were quieter, but provided support when needed. And I'm not really sure where to account for Obeng-Agyapong, but when he lined up as a linebacker (I think?) he came up with a HUGE sack of Drew Allen. For today at least, depth was not an issue, as the starters provided stellar play.
Defensive Backs: B+
Jordan Lucas and Trevor Williams played extremely well in their debut as starting corners. Cuse couldn't get much in the passing game when they threw to the numbers, with most of their damage coming from short passes, and passes over the middle. Malcolm Willis played well aside from the blown coverage on the long pass (Although that was a pretty big bugaboo). Amos didn't do a ton, but played well from what I saw. Obeng-Agyapong had his best game as a Penn State athlete, in my opinion. He was all over the field, forcing fumbles, delivering crushing hits, and leaving no mercy anywhere. I would think that he'll be on the field a lot over the course of the season, despite not being a starter.
Special Teams: A
As the biggest fan of Sam Ficken alive, this GAME WAS AWESOME. Ficken was money on all of his field goals today, cementing his spot as the best kicker in the country (YUP). Butterworth was whatever. Could have been better, could have been worse. The kick return game, while looking better than last year, was nothing to be excited about just yet. In terms of punt returns, Della Valle did his thing, providing decent returns, while not making mistakes. But ultimately this grade if so high because SAM FICKEN IS A MOTHER FICKEN ANIMAL.
I'd be lying if I said I wasn't disappointed in some of those 3rd and long calls, despite the fact that I understand them. O'Brien seemed to give Hack quite a long leash, allowing him to do his thing, and not get buried in the run game. And of course, we must point out the fake field goal (Although it just led to a short field goal). O'Brien wasn't afraid to make the bold calls last year, and it would seem that's still the case. O'Brien reminded us all why we love him for most of this game, especially in the 2nd half when he allowed Hack to continually give the ball to A-Rob, when they needed a spark.
*As far as injuries, I haven't seen any updates yet, so those will come in due time. All we know for now is that Lehman's injury looked pretty brutal, and Mike Hull was in a t shirt by the game's end.*
**Also, shout out to ESPN for saying that SOA caught that Geno Lewis touchdown**
All in all, this was a good game, that started slow, but finished strong. And we won!!!!!!!!!!! PENN STATE FOOTBALL IS BACK BABY!!!!!!!! Go State.
(For those worried, Devon will be back writing these recaps next week.)
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