Penn State vs. UCF: Gameday Grades
Christian Hackenberg wasn’t stellar, but he wasn’t terrible either. The freshman went 21-for-28 for 262 yards, one touchdown and no picks. He did a much better job at protecting the ball than last week. While he had no turnovers, at portions of the game he did struggle. Overall, Hackenberg held his own against a team that represents the Lions toughest test so far.
Running Backs: C
No one stood out Saturday except for Zack Zwinak. However, he did have the fumble which ultimately ended the game. The running back had 129 yards on 21 carries. Bill Belton and Akeel Lynch were non-existent, as the Knights defenders had a field day with both of them. Neither had a chance to get in a groove, which may have cost the Lions the game on the offensive side.
Much like with the running backs, only one person stood out, Allen Robinson. After him, the Lions next best receiver was freshman Adam Breneman who registered the first four catches of his college career. Hackenberg needs guys like Jesse James and Brandon Felder to step up fast if they are to be successful in Big Ten play.
Offensive Line: C
Penn State’s offensive line did not do Hackenberg any favors. While the freshman was sacked just once, on several occasions he was rushed. Players like John Urschel, Garry Gilliam and Miles Dieffenbach need to improve.
Defensive Line: D
This could just as easily been an F. The defense as a whole allowed 240 yards rushing, and a scary, 528 total yards, (the grand total Blake Bortles had passing for the year entering the game). The second half saved them from receiving failing grade.
See the defensive line. Mike Hull wasn’t impressive in his return, but wasn’t terrible either with four total tackles. Glenn Carson led the charge with six tackles.
Blake Bortles and the Knights receiving corps feasted quite a bit. J.J. Worton gave guys like Trevor Williams nightmares with seven catches for 101 yards and a touchdown. After next week’s game against Kent State, they will be playing against offenses that can pass against anyone. Even though Malcolm Willis did have an interception, not capitalizing on it hurt.
Going for a Sam Ficken field goal with 11 seconds in the half was questionable at best. Even though Penn State didn’t have a timeout, they should have tried for the end zone at least once. Bill O’Brien has talked about how much he needs to coach, better, and he is right. However, it’s not just on him for why they lost to Central Florida. The poor execution in the first half ultimately came back to bite them and the Zach Zwinak fumble was the deciding factor. The same applies for the assistant coaches as well.
Special Teams: A-
No reason to complain too much about Sam Ficken. He was placed in a tough situation, and almost made a 57-yard field goal. Alex Butterworth had two punts for 69 yards.
Crowd Atmosphere: A+
The crowd noise was comparable to recent games including Northwestern last year. The team fed off of that during the rally.
Fans got their money’s worth on Saturday, especially if they love offense. The Lions resiliency was a testament to what kind of program O’Brien has been building for two years. While the defense needs a lot of work, the offense has a lot to build off from the second half where Penn State outscored the Knights, 24-6.
Matt Michelone is a senior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.