Penn State Vs. Syracuse Review

By Sean McMahon @Wolfkaosaun

Penn State starts off the year with a win against a tough team in Syracuse. The 23-17 win obviously had positives and negatives, but it gave Penn State fans a chance to finally see freshman quarterback Christian Hackenberg in action, rather than wondering who would be the starting quarterback. The Nittany Lions had a slow start, but the offense came together after half time, resulting in some promising looks from Christian Hackenberg.

When the Nittany Lions offense came onto the field, Hackenberg was finally announced to be the starting quarterback. In fact, Hackenberg completed his first 8 passes. Nonetheless, the offense was without Big Ten Receiver of the Year in 2012 Allen Robinson for the first half, so Hackenberg had to get used to his other weapons. Hackenberg showed some arm strength and flashes, but also appeared he was afraid to pull the trigger at time, hesitating. That’s how he threw his first interception, he hesitated then threw the ball, Jeremi Wilkes broke on the ball and made a fantastic play.

Penn State relied heavily on the run game in the first half, and then the second half came in. Allen Robinson came into the game, on the first play he received a quick screen pass and Robinson displayed his YAC ability by weaving, outrunning, and eluding defenders. The next play, Robinson confused the defenders and ran by wide open for a 51 TD pass. As soon as Robinson came in, you could tell how much more confident Hackenberg became. While the offense clicked, there were some problems.

While stated earlier, Hackenberg struggled with pulling the trigger on some passes, which hurt him in the long run. Although he is a freshman, Hackenberg threw two interceptions on the day. His biggest strength, however, was getting out of the pocket and making throws on the run. Play action was also a strong suit in this offense. Robinson had a tremendous game, even though he only played for one half. He recorded 7 receptions for 133 yards and a touchdown. In fact, Robinson is tied for 2nd in receptions in the Big Ten, and the leading receiver, without playing a full half. These two have a promising future together, as they will get better and build chemistry with time.

Hackenberg did really well on bootlegs and play action, but that wouldn’t have been successful if it wasn’t for Zach Zwiank. Looking at his stats, you wouldn’t think he had a good game, but he did. In the beginning of the game when the passing game was struggling, Zwiank carried this offense and bruised defenders. As the game went on, they began to stop him, but he still was effective in the sense to wear that team down.

The Nittany Lion’s defensive line had a pretty good game as Syracuse running backs Jerome Smith and Prince-Tyson Gulley combined for over 2,000 yards and 12 touchdowns last season. This game, the two amassed only 97 yards, but had 2 TDs. But the defensive line was able to fill up holes. The linebacker play was also very good, as Mike Hull went down, people suspected that it would create a big hole in that defense. Ben Kline filled that hole and did not miss a beat, helping the team stop the running back duo. Senior Glenn Carson had a great game, playing very well in coverage and not allowing the opposing receivers to break away from him. He stayed in his zone and showed progress from last season.

The player who had arguably the biggest game, and definitely most underrated, was Stephen Obeng-Agyapong. Obeng-Agyapong had a terrific game by recording eight tackles, a forced fumble, a recovered fumble, and an interception. Obeng-Agyapong played very well in coverage, not allowing his opponents to beat him nor break away far from him. He also came into the box at times to make hits. With the Nittany Lions having a great front seven, opponents will probably attack the secondary. With that said, if Obeng-Agyapong plays like he did against Syracuse, then he could be an All-Big Ten performer.

Overall, it was a very good game for Penn State, showing more light after things seemed bleak. Head coach Bill O’Brien has this team going in the right direction, allowing them to grow on offense and defense. They will have to cut back on turnovers and continue to gel together as a team, especially since they are being led by a freshman quarterback, don’t be surprised if Penn State makes some noise in the Big Ten. Penn State looks forward to playing against Eastern Michigan at home on September 7th.