The Nittany Lions fought back hard towards the end and gave themselves a chance to win on a last-second hail-mary, but ultimately fell to the Georgia Bulldogs by a final of 24-17. It was a valiant effort from a short-handed team against one of the better defenses in the entire country, and although it will go down as a loss in the record book, it was a gutsy effort that deserves some praise.
The first half started promisingly enough, with Hackenberg zipping the ball around the field with authority. The first time drive ended on a tipped pass interception, but it was still a nice start for the offense. Georgia responded with a drive of their own that ended in a field goal, which was made more manageable by Anthony Zettel jumping offsides.
Penn State would eventually even things up with a field goal of their own, but would then lose Christian Hackenberg to injury when he fell hard on his right shoulder. He attempted to play through the pain, but it was too much, and he was forced into the locker room. It was a painful way to see Hackenberg's Penn State career come to an end, if this was in fact the end. We'll have plenty more on him in the coming days and weeks. Georgia would take a 17-3 lead into halftime, with Penn State reeling.
The second half brought much of the same, with the Penn State offense stalling many more times. In the late third quarter/early fourth quarter, the Penn State finally broke through for its first touchdown of the day. A re-energized Penn State defense would stuff the Georgia offense, giving the ball back to Trace McSorley once again, and with six minutes remaining in the game, DaeSean Hamilton was the beneficiary of a beautiful touchdown pass that would get the Lions within seven points. They finally got the ball back with 1:52 remaining, but with a backup quarterback handcuffing the playbook, there wasn't much they could do. They did an admirable job of getting within hail-mary range, but the final attempt fell short, and Georgia held on for the win.
Three Key Takeaways
1. Trace McSorley has brass balls of steel - He may not have the physical tools that Hack has, but you saw glimpses of why Trace was able to lead his high school to four straight state championships. The ability to take off and scramble out of trouble, the gutsy throws he made in multiple fourth down situations, and his general "Goonies never say die" attitude helped the Nittany Lions pull themselves out of what seemed like an insurmountable hole. Whether this helps his chances to win the starting job this offseason remain to be seen, but he definitely left a better impression than when he started.
2. Do you see what happens for you go for it on 4th down, Coach Franklin? - Great things happened when James Franklin decided to stop being so conservative and start going for it on fourth down. Perhaps most notably, when PSU found itself in a 4th-and-12 situation early in the fourth quarter, trailing 24-3. Trace responded by throwing a strike to Geno Lewis, which sparked life into what had been a dead-looking sideline and the contingent of PSU fans who made the trek to Jacksonville for the game.
3. Praise Science, the Joe Moorhead era officially begins - After being granted play-calling duties for this game, Ricky Rahne will hand the reins over to Joe Moorhead, who will begin the process of molding a scheme that will attempt to maximize the plethora of talent at the skill positions on offense. If you're looking for a reason to get excited for the Blue/White Game, this is it.