East Coast toughness bests West Coast charm in first ever meeting between Penn State and San Diego State
Christian Hackenberg (junior-quarterback) (Palmyra, Va.) completed 21 of his 35 passes this weekend. This game marks his 15th career 200-yard passing game (296 yards) giving Hackenberg a career 6,600 passing yards to date. Hackenberg threw three touchdown passes and made some quick decisions throughout the game, including numerous crisp passes to sophomore wide receiver Chris Godwin (Middletown, Del.), freshman running back Saquon Barkley (Coplay, Pa.), and junior running back Akeel Lynch (Toronto, Can.).
Penn State was able to capitalize on San Diego’s poor ball handling skills by securing the ball after three of SDSU’s fumbles. The squad scored their first touchdown late in the second quarter thanks to a fumble by SDSU that was within range of the Lions’ scoring territory.
For a brief period of time, SDSU held the lead at 14-13 thanks to a well-placed 19 yard pass by senior quarterback Maxwell Smith (Granada, Calif.) that was received in the end zone by sophomore wide receiver Mikah Holder (Oceanside, Calif.). Luckily, the Nittany Lion defense quickly learned from their errors and recovered the lead a few minutes later on a set of scoring passes from Hackenberg, bringing the score to 27-14.
Both running backs, Barkley and Lynch, were absent for most of the second half due to individual injuries that have not yet been disclosed. However, the offense was able to maintain strong play. Head Coach James Franklin said of the offense,
“Overall, we found a way to get a win. The offense was a little bit more aggressive, allowing us to open some things up.”
Franklin continued to preach a doctrine of perfecting past and present errors by stating,
“We need to be more consistent.”
One of the most exciting parts of Saturday’s game involved senior defensive tackle Austin Johnson (Galloway, N.J.) scoring a touchdown. The 6’4, 323 DT collected a fumble made by SDSU and began cruising his way to the end zone to complete a 71 yard touchdown. Johnson said of his first career touchdown,
“While I was running, I was like ‘Oh my goodness, it’s about to go down.’”
The sideline celebrations by Johnson and Coach Franklin were enough to put a smile on every attendee’s face. A Nittany Lion is not only marked by his strength, but by his ability to surprise the opponent at any given time, which is exactly what Johnson did.
Despite it being a canning weekend, the student section remained remarkably full and vibrant for the duration of the game. Students in the front row of the student section painted “Zettel” across their chests to show their support for senior defensive tackle Anthony Zettel (West Branch, Mi.), who lost his father this past Friday night to cancer. Zettel was the epitome of a strong soul on Saturday, both mentally and physically, and was named MVP for the game thanks to his new career-high of 7 tackles, 2.5 of which were for a loss and a sack.
Penn State hosts the Army Black Knights this Saturday at home with a noon kickoff. This will be the first time since 1979 the pair will square off, and only the 26th time in history the Black Knights face PSU. With two games left in this five game series at Beaver Stadium, Penn State is 3-3 at home and looking to make it 4-4 this weekend. The Nittany Lions continue to step up in the most unexpected of ways, and fans can look forward to seeing more explosive and intelligent play this weekend.