-This game looks like it has the promise of making the B1G dream of a Penn State/Maryland rivalry come true. There was some pregame jawing, a brief scuffle, and Maryland players refused to shake hands with Penn State at the coin flip. Should be a fun day…
-Penn State’s first drive is off to a promising start, with Penn State utilizing short passes to get Hackenberg into a rhythm. Nice run by Lynch as well.
-The snap infraction by Wendy Laurent is the type of penalty you get with a young and inexperienced line. With the only experienced lineman, Donovan Smith, out due to injury, 3 of the 5 starting linemen are playing in a different position than they did last week.
-Tough catch by Lewis before getting run over by a crossing defender.
-Beautiful 47 yard field goal by Sam Ficken. Remember when Sam Ficken was the worst football player in the Big Ten? Penn State leads 3-0.
-Stupid penalties are a staple of rivalry games, but they don’t help you win. Marcus Allen is a good player and a promising freshman, but he’s going to need to keep those emotions in check a little bit.
-Penn State manages to force the punt. Still 3-0.
-On fourth down, Penn State goes for it on their own 30 yard line. This is a fun game to watch so far.
-Hackenberg has got to be better in the pocket. His line was been playing much better today than in most of the season so far, and Hackenberg is taking too long to decide what to do with the ball. Maryland’s DBs are doing a good job in coverage, but Hackenberg is waiting too long to check down or ditch the ball.
-Maryland is struggling a bit on offense today. Penn State has a big boy defense, and Maryland hasn’t been able to find a way to consistently move the chains. They are starting to get a little rhythm going at the end of this quarter, moving into field goal range.
-Another personal foul penalty by Marcus Allen, who has now accounted for a significant portion of Maryland’s game yardage.
-CJ Brown hits a wide open Gallow for the easy touchdown and the lead. 7-3, Maryland.
-Nice catch and run by Chris Godwin, but more importantly- did anyone else see Christian Hackenberg murder someone on the Maryland sideline with this throw away on the next play? Some fella was caught straight in the temple by that pass, and he went down for the count!
-Another incompletion by Hackenberg, and he is yelling. Hack seems to yell a lot at his teammates when things don’t go his way. You’ve got to wonder how that works out in the Penn State locker room.
-An ineligible receiver down field penalty on Maryland makes the 9th penalty so far in this game. After review, that penalty is declined, resulting in an incompletion for Maryland and 3rd down.
-Good coverage by Wartman to stop Maryland short of the 1st down.
-Hackenberg is hit for a big sack on a missed block by Andrew Nelson, the left tackle. On the very next play, Nelson splits left as soon as the ball is snapped, and a defender shoots, unblocked straight into the quarterback. Hackenberg throws an interception just before the hit, but a lucky roughing the passer call gives PSU the first down instead of a costly interception.
-Penn State fails to score a touchdown (a regular issue for them this season), but Ficken picks up 3 on a 26 yard field goal to make it 7-6, Maryland.
-Maryland goes four and out on their possession, with a great sack and forced fumble by Deion Barnes, which is recovered by Maryland, who is forced to punt.
-Penn State moves the ball into field goal range, but an inability to complete passes kills their drive. Mr. Automatic, AKA Sam Ficken, makes a 46 yard field goal to go 3 for 3 on the day and give Penn State a 9-7 lead.
-CJ Brown completes a 7 yard pass to Brandon Ross, which he then fumbles. Penn State’s Mike Hull, who did not make the semifinalist list for the Butkus Award, recovers the fumble for Penn State.
-Sackenberg takes a long shot down field for Geno Lewis. When that fails to result in an interception, Hackenberg takes the more direct route to incompetence by fumbling on the next play.
-Maryland is unable to get anything rolling, and has to punt.
-Hackenberg takes a rough sack near his own endzone, and Penn State kneels out the half to go to the locker room leading 9-7.
1st Half Assessment
The biggest thing Penn State needs to do during halftime is calm down, especially Christian Hackenberg. Emotions are running a little hot in this game, and Hackenberg has been less and less accurate as he has become frustrated with pressure. Hopefully the coaching staff dials up more of those short, easy pass plays that they started the game with. Hack needs a chance to settle down and get into a rhythm.
Penn State also needs to return to the run game. There have been more passes than runs so far, and that’s not helping out your struggling quarterback. Akeel Lynch has been flashing the ability to run even behind this line, and I think you need to get Bill Belton and him the ball on a more consistent basis.
-The offenses continue their struggles to start the second half, as Maryland and Penn State both go three and out on their first possessions of the half.
-I find myself yelling at Hackenberg through the television more every game. Hack takes a sack (again), but tries to pitch the ball while he is halfway to the ground. What the heck are you doing, moron?! You have the lead, and half the Maryland team is right on top of you! Do you really think that your offensive lineman is going to snatch that toss and run for a first down? For being a quarterback who is touted as an intelligent passer, Hackenberg has been making an incredible number of stupid mistakes this season. Or, as the announcers call them, “Mental errors from a young quarterback.”
-Penn State’s defense is truly terrific, and it’s a shame they don’t have an offense capable of winning games. Anothony Zettel gets a forced fumble on the run by Wes Brown, which is recovered by CJ Olaniyan for a PSU possession at the PSU 49 yard line.
-Penn State finally puts together a good drive, with Christian Hackenberg completing 6/6 passes, the last of which went to Jesse James for a TD. PAT is good, 16-7 Penn State.
-Maryland is driving the field to end the 3rd quarter
-Maryland has a nice drive, but Penn State’s stingy defense limits the Terps to a field goal, making the game 16-10 Penn State.
-Grant Haley loses the ball on the kick return, and Penn State hands over the football for the third time of the day.
-CJ Brown makes the Lions pay with a strike delivered to Etta-Tawo at the Penn State 9 yard line.
-Stefon Diggs catches the next pass and is tackled about an inch shy of the endzone, and Wes Brown puts it in with a 1 yard run. The PAT is good, and Maryland now leads 17-16 with 11:30 left in the game.
-The next drives from each team end in punts. This is definitely not a shooting match.
-Hackenberg shows some wheels with a 17 yard run for the first down.
-Penn State continues the drive, but fails to score a touchdown. The 48 yard field goal by Ficken makes it 19-17, Penn State.
-Marcus Allen has a great sack for an 11 yard loss. Joe Galloway is drawing up on the screen who CJ Brown should have thrown the ball to before getting sacked. Sorry Joe, but it’s a lot easier to say that while the play unfolds in slow motion. In real life, that receiver was in the middle of the field directly behind the two defenders that were about to flatten Brown. No way he should have tried to loft it over them, and no way he would have had time anyhow. Just a great sack.
-Penn State plays it safe with three straight running plays to run down the clock with the lead. After gaining 7 yards on 3 plays, they punt (poorly).
-Maryland is led downfield by the Browns (CJ and Wes), and Craddock puts one through the uprights for the 20-19 lead. Can’t believe that Franklin didn’t use a timeout earlier in the final series there. Penn State will start with less than a minute to score.
-Penn State starts on their own 19 yard line, and they make it a whole 9 yards before a fumbled snap turns the ball over to Maryland. That will finish the game, 20-19.
Penn State and Maryland hadn’t faced each other in 21 years, but there was no love lost between these two historic rivals. Pre-game scuffles and snubbed handshakes set the tone for a messy, emotional, grinding day on the gridiron. Penn State carried a 35-1-1 record against Maryland into today’s game, but the Terps found just enough offense to carry them over the Lions in a 20-19 victory.
One of the biggest things that stood out from this game is that Hackenberg is far from being a finished product. He has all the physical talent and intelligence you could want in a quarterback, but he also makes the kind of idiotic plays almost defy explanation. In fact, he has been playing so foolishly that it is hard to believe that his teammates aren’t becoming frustrated, especially given that he is starting to show a distasteful tendency to shout at and blame his teammates for failed plays, even though many (or most) of them are his own fault.
I am convinced that if it weren’t for the fact that Christian Hackenberg is a clean-cut, baby faced white boy from Fork Union Military Academy, he would not be so consistently described as a “smart pocket passer.” It’s the same mentality that leads lazy announcers to describe white running backs as “bruising tailbacks” and black quarterbacks as “athletic playmakers.” The latter happened when Rob Bolden played for Penn State. There were constantly references to his athletic ability, even though he was a pocket passer who rarely ran and didn’t have particularly good wheels.
ATTENTION, SPORTS ANNOUNCERS: Black quarterbacks can be slow and intelligent pocket passers too, and just because Hackenberg is a white kid with a good GPA does not mean that he has earned the right to be called a smart quarterback. In fact, he has shown himself to be just the opposite. Last year, we wrote off occasional miscues as freshman mistakes. This year, we blamed the offensive line. Fair enough, because they suck too. But the line played much better today, and Hackenberg still held the ball too long, then acted like a martyr every time he got sacked. When he did manage to throw the ball, he made bad decisions, hung receivers out to dry, threw stupid picks, lost his composure, and generally did everything a smart quarterback doesn’t do. He’s got all the talent in the world, but there’s a lot more than needs to develop between the ears if he hopes to play on Sundays. If you think I’m being too harsh on a 19 year old kid, just watch his attitude during the game, watch how much his O-line has improved, then look at the stat line: 18/42 for 177, 1 TD, 1 INT, and a dismal 4.2 YPA.
Defensively, Penn State was great again. I can’t knock them for giving up 20 points because their offense is so laughably bad it’s amazing the defense can still keep them in games. Brandon Bell had a great game, Mike Hull was his usual awesome self, Deion Barnes continued his great Junior campaign, and the freshman Marcus Allen flashed some impressive playmaking abilities between penalties in his first career start.
There should seriously be a statue of Sam Ficken at Beaver Stadium if Penn State manages to make a bowl game. While Hackenberg was supposed to be the savior of Penn State, it is Ficken who continues to come through in the clutch. Once the goat of Happy Valley, Ficken has grown into one of the most valuable commodities in football: a surefire kicker. An underappreciated asset, great kickers shorten the field on offense with their long field goal range, and shorten the field on defense with excellent kickoffs. Ficken does both, and the moment never seems too big for him. There were chants of FICK-EN, FICK-EN at Beaver Stadium on Saturday, and he earned every bit of that praise.
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