- Hack is Back: After a slow start to the season, Hackenberg reminded us why we love him by hitting 21 of 39 pass attempts (several drops) for 262 yards and 2 TDs, with no interceptions. There were one or two plays where he brought pressure on himself by seemingly becoming entranced with something downfield and forgetting to move his feet. However, by and large he showed much better pocket awareness, timing, and confidence than we've seen this season. Watching Hackenberg recently had become pretty baffling, as all his former strengths (timing, deep pass accuracy, pocket awareness and mobility) seemed to have vanished into thin air under James Franklin and John Donovan. On Saturday, the old #14 was back in town.
- Donovan and Franklin Learning... Slooooowly: I'll be honest: When James Franklin came to town, I wasn't super excited. Bill O'Brien was so surprisingly excellent during his two year tenure, it would have been very difficult for anyone to fill those shoes. And for the past year and a half, I have been underwhelmed. My impression is that Franklin is more of a recruiter, motivator, and overall "vision" guy than a nuts-and-bolts coach or a game planner. So most of this criticism is probably meant for John Donovan: Dude. Johnny boy. What are you looking at???
Look, the actual designing of an entire playbook and offensive system is, I'm sure, quite a difficult and involved process. But coming up with the overall philosophy of your offense, deciding what the bread and butter will be... that's pretty easy. And you whiffed. Hackenberg's greatest strengths are hitting the deep ball, play action, and running the bootleg. And for almost a year and a half, two of those three things were all but absent from the playbook. Every now and then we see some aggressive passing plays and a naked bootleg near the goal line, and guess what? The offense performs. Most people would take that as a sign. Here's hoping that Donovan & Co. picked up on the trend after this past week, but I won't hold my breath.
- We are Committed to the Run: Which, if you ask me, is good. Look, even if you aren't getting a ton of yardage, I think it's important to at least go through the motions of having a ground game. Let your receivers catch a breather now and then, maintain possession of the ball, and wear out those d-linemen and linebackers. Luckily, this seems to be the one instance where John Donovan and I are on the same page. Even without Saquon Barkley and Akeel Lynch, Penn State rolled up 254 yards on the ground, taking a running back by committee approach. This is an offense that needs an identity, and a bruising running game is looking to be the first part of that identity to really take shape. Now we just need to maintain some success in the air...
- Carl Nassib Deserves to be Named All-American: All he's done through 6 games is rack up 27 tackles, 12 tackles for loss, 10 sacks (1st in the Nation), 5 forced fumbles, and 1 interception. Joey Who? Shalique Who? I rest my case.
- Penn State May Have the Best D-Line in the Nation: Seriously. Look, we've got Nassib playing the DE slot like nobody else in the country right now. Next to him is Anthony Zettel, who as I pointed out earlier, has been dominating on an amazingly consistent basis for the past few years. Next to Zettel is Austin Johnson, who eats double teams for breakfast and is a great pro prospect is his own right. And now, with offenses forced to choose between all those unpalatable options, Garett Sickles is starting to rack up the sacks at the right DE slot. The best plays are drawn up to always make the other player wrong. Well, it doesn't take a special play from Bob Shoop, because offenses literally cannot find enough blockers to keep those four guys out of their backfield.
- #14 Looks Like #7...