It wasn't pretty for Penn State on Saturday, but the Nittany Lions were able to earn the 20-14 win against the Black Knights of Army.
It was a slow first half, in which Army couldn't hold onto the football. Penn State was only able to manufacture 10 points before the break, with the offense struggling to put together anything consistent. Nick Scott was able to run in his first career touchdown on the second drive of the game, though.
The second half was a slightly more encouraging for Penn State in regards to play calling, but Army fought back to make it a game. Hackenberg and company were able to put together a 91 yard drive thanks to a 49 yard pass play to Chris Godwin and a 33 yard touchdown toss to Mike Gesicki. The Black Knights didn't go down without a fight, though, and scored once in each of the final two quarters, even finding themselves driving for the potential go-ahead score at one point. But on their final play from scrimmage, Jason Cabinda came up with the sack to end Army's chance to upset the Nittany Lions.
Three things to know
1. Penn State's defense did what good defenses are supposed to do against a run-based team in the rain.
They were a solid unit for most of the day. Sure, Army put up 14 points, including a 56 yard touchdown run by AJ Schurr, but overall they were impressive. They recovered three fumbles and applied pressure in the backfield for most of the day. The only time that the defense truly faltered was when they were forced to be on the field for extended periods of time, which happened quite a bit thanks to the methodical nature of the triple option attack. Had Penn State's offense been able to put together some extended drives of their own and given their defense some rest, the scoreline in this one would have looked different.
2. The first half play calling was...not what I expected.
After seeing them finally open up the passing game against San Diego State, it would have been nice to see Donovan/Franklin let Hackenberg air it out a little more, even in the wet environment. Nick Scott, Mark Allen and Johnathan Thomas are all solid players, but none of them are Akeel Lynch or Saquon Barkley. Even considering the opponent, you have to give you team the chance to pull away in a game that they should be able to dominate. The offensive coaching staff didn't give their players the opportunity to do that in the this one, until allowing Hackenberg to throw downfield late in the third quarter.
3. This team could be in for a rough go in Big Ten play.
Is it possible that the coaching staff was calling a conservative game because it was the last game before conference play and it was raining? Sure. Considering how eerily similar it looked to how the first three games of the season were called, though, don't count on it. If the Nittany Lions aren't able to open up the mid-to-deep range passing game when non-Rutgers Big Ten opponents come knocking, this team could be in a dogfight to each and every week in their quest to gain bowl-eligibility.