Five Things We Learned: Indiana vs. Penn State
A crowd of just under 98,000 filed into Beaver Stadium as past and present Nittany Lions celebrated a ¬¬29-7 Penn State homecoming victory over the Indiana Hoosiers. Here is what Nittany nation can take away from the final game of Penn State’s undefeated five-game home stretch:
1. Hack has found his form
After posting career lows through the first three games of the season, Christian Hackenberg has since put up solid numbers and has lead the team to victory.
In the last three weeks, Hackenberg has averaged 238 yards per game and has a six touchdown to no interception ratio in the air. Along with this, the QB has ran for 30 yards and added two touchdowns on the ground.
The captain also etched his name into the Penn State record books against Indiana, where he became the second player in school history to reach 7,000 passing yards and also tied Kerry Collins for 6th all-time in career passing touchdowns with 39.
His increase in production has been essential in the Nittany Lion’s success recently. The team is still without running backs Saquon Barkley and Akeel Lynch, making Hackenberg’s need to step up a premium.
The team has relied on him as of late, and will continue to as questions still linger about the run-game.
2. Penn State – home warriors
Penn State finished off their first five-game home stretch since 1922, and like that year, they went 5-0 in that home stand.
The Nittany Lions have found comfort in Happy Valley, outscoring their opponents 141-59 and have earned their longest win streak since 2012, which also reached five games.
Now that they venture away from Beaver Stadium, they will hit the road for two games before heading back home. The Lions may face a challenge in doing so since they have not had two road games in a row since that 2012, which they split with a win and a loss.
The team will have just two more home games this year and will have to get used to life on the road if they want to finish the season strong.
3. Big Toe Joe has Big Toe Woes
Extra-point field goals are seen as a chip-in in college football. While Joey Julius entered Saturday flawless in 14 extra-point attempts, those kicks turned into anything other than routine for the redshirt-freshman.
After making his first PAT, he sent his second and third attempts wide right. Along with a kickoff he sailed out of bounds early in the game, Julius has had a tough time of sending the ball where it needed to be.
Coach Franklin took action after the mishaps by sending in Tyler Davis to take the team’s fourth and final extra-point as well as the team’s only field goal attempt in the games closing minutes.
Julius stayed in for kickoffs, but it appears his job as the starting kicker may be in jeopardy.
4. Barkley, Lynch return could take offense to next level
After being the foundation of the offense the first three games of the season, the run game has been rather quiet the past few weeks with injuries to Barkley and Lynch.
Since the run game’s 330 yard outing against Rutgers, the team has combined for a total of 334 yards in the past three weeks.
Now while 111 rushing yards per game is still solid, a return by the team’s top rushers could spring this offense to another level now that the pass game has finally found success.
It is still in question when either RB will return, but when they do, the offense can seriously benefit from their arrival.
5. Biggest test next week against complete team (No. 1 Ohio St, all previous games had starters injured) --How has team done against rushing QBs?
Here are a few fun facts for Penn State’s biggest matchup of the year this upcoming week against Ohio State:
-Earlier I mentioned Penn State’s last five-game win streak in 2012. Who was the team that beat them? Ohio State in a 35-23 victory.
-Penn State has not won against Ohio State since 2011. In the games since, they’ve been outscored 129-61.
-The Nittany Lions have played a backup QB each of the past two weeks. This week, they face a team with two starting QBs.
These facts are not meant to predict certain doom for the Lions, but are meant to show Penn State will certainly have their hands full against this Ohio State team that is ranked No. 1 in the country.
From an optimistic view, the Buckeyes have struggled against lesser teams the last few weeks and have allowed opponents to score first in three of the past four weeks. If Penn State follows this trend, they may have a chance to keep the game competitive.
Ryan Berti is a sophomore majoring in Broadcast Journalism. To contact him, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on twitter: @RBirdman7.