Passing: Christian Hackenberg (13/29 for 315 yards, 3TD)
Receiving: Chris Godwin (4 receptions, 135 yards, 1 TD)
Rushing: Saquon Barkley (20 carries, 65 yards, 1 TD)
Defense: Austin Johnson (9 tackles, 1.5 TFL, 1 pass breakup)
Passing: Perry Hills (19/28 for 225 yards, 1TD, 3 INT)
Receiving: Levern Jacobs (5 receptions, 93 yards)
Rushing: Perry Hills (26 carries, 124 yards, 1 TD)
Defense: Yannick Ngakoue (4 tackles, 2 sacks)
Score: Prediction: 31-17, Penn State. Actual: 31-30, Penn State.
Reaction: It looks like I was about 50% right on this prediction. I nailed the PSU score, and predicted that the PSU receivers would have big days against Maryland's secondary. However, I figured that a prideful Nittany Lions defense would be in shut-down mode after falling apart against Ohio State and Saquon Barkley would have a big impact on the offense. Hackenberg, Hamilton, and Godwin all had big days, but the PSU defense started the game very flat and gave up way more points than I expected. Barkley also struggled, fumbling the ball twice and gaining just 65 yards on 20 carries. He had a few good runs, but a lot of others where things just didn't develop. Sometimes, there was no hole to hit; other times, Barkley seemed uncharacteristically impatient. As a true freshman, it seemed a bit like the physical and emotional toll of a college season was wearing on Barkley. I'm not worried about him moving forward, as his natural talent is too great to let one sub-par performance cast doubt on the rest of the season.
Perry Hills: Prediction: Big day running, poor passing stats. Actual: Great day for both.
Reaction: Again, a 50% prediction. Hill had a great day on the ground, accounting for more than twice as many rushing yards as their next best ball carrier. However, he also had an uncharacteristically good day in the passing game against a good PSU secondary, completing 68% of his passes for 225 yards and one touchdown. Tying into the previous semi-failed prediction, it was surprising to see the PSU defense give up so many yards and points in this matchup. Maryland is far better on offense than defense, but I really expected PSU to match up against them much better. Even with 3 interceptions, Maryland was able to put together a big day on offense. It really seemed like the Penn State defense was emotionally exhausted after playing Ohio State. Especially early in the game, the defense seemed to be getting to the line slowly, standing erect instead of getting down into position, and generally seeming disinterested and unexcited. I don't expect that to carry through to the next week. Losing badly against a rival like OSU can take a lot out of you, but these guys are too talented and too prideful to allow more than two big games in a row for opposing offenses.
Hackenberg (and Offensive Coaching) Remains an Enigma:
Christian Hackenberg showed both sides of his game this week: The potential 1st round talent, and the underperformed who shouldn't be drafted. Hackenberg racked up 315 yards on just 13 completions, an astonishing 24.2 yards per completed pass. However, his completion percentage was just 45%. I would say that this game showed an accurate depiction of where Hackenberg and the Franklin coaching staff are at this point in their evolutions. Hack is a great deep passer with physical toughness and leadership ability who struggles on short and intermediate routes unless he is on the move; bootlegs and play action passes are his forte for those shorter passes. That was his story as a freshman, and unfortunately that remains the case.
As a coaching staff, the Franklin regime continues to get things half right. They call deep passes for Hackenberg, but not enough plays that call for him to throw on the move. They have a once-in-a-decade talent freshman talent at running back, but bench him when he struggles instead of showing confidence by letting him take the ball on the next play.
Hopefully this is the start of a new trend toward playing to Hack's strengths rather than stubbornly clinging to an offensive philosophy that simply doesn't match personnel. I won't hold my breath, but I'm sure that's a storyline we'll be looking at more in the future.