Penn State Defense Secures Win Over Army
The Nittany Lions defense was at it again, as Penn State (4-1) defeated the Army Black Knights (1-4) 20-14 on Saturday afternoon for their fourth consecutive win in front of the home crowd at Beaver Stadium.
Weather was a major factor in this one as the temperature was in the low 40’s and rain fell on and off throughout the day.
Army fell victim to the slippery conditions on a number of occasions and turned the ball over on three fumbles scattered throughout the game.
Penn State started off the game with a three-and-out but the defense came up huge as Garrett Sickels recovered a fumble on Army’s first play from scrimmage after quarterback A.J. Schurr could not handle the snap.
With great field position pinning Penn State at the Army 42 yard line, Christian Hackenberg and company converted several key third downs and capped off the drive with an 11-yard touchdown by Nick Scott to take an early 7-0 lead.
The rest of the first quarter was quiet though, as both teams traded punts with one another. Sophomore linebacker Jason Cabinda forced another fumble on Army’s second drive but Schurr was able to recover setting up a punt on fourth down and 41.
The second quarter continued the trend of slow offensive play until a miscommunicated pitch fell short of the intended target for Army and linebacker Von Walker fell on the ball for Penn State’s second fumble recovery of the game.
“In my mind, I just wanted to get on the ball… with the ball being pitched a lot, that stuff is bound to happen,” Walker said while reflecting on the fumble recovery.
The Nittany Lions were forced to punt shortly after but just when it seemed like Army had Penn State fooled with its triple option offense, A.J. Schurr fumbled the ball again and freshman linebacker Manny Bowen recovered for Penn State, setting the offense up at the Army 41 yard line.
Penn State took advantage of the favorable field position. A 19-yard scramble by Hackenberg pitted the Lions at the 27-yard line and eventually set up a 37-yard field goal for kicker Joey Julius that put Penn State up 10-0.
After the first half, Penn State accumulated all three of the games turnovers in addition to 125 yards of offense to Army’s 77.
The second half was not so one-sided as Army started to creep its way back into the game.
Penn State was able to add to its lead at the beginning of the third quarter. Joey Julius capped off the Lions first drive of the second half with a 27-yard field goal to go up 13-0. DeAndre Thompkins’ 25-yard punt return was a key to the drive.
Army did not give up as the triple option scheme kept Penn State busy. The Black Knights tricked the Lions defense by drawing up their first and only pass of the game that went for 32 yards to wide receiver Edgar Allen Poe (yes you read that name correctly). Schurr finished off the 68-yard drive with a three-yard touchdown run to shorten the lead to 13-7.
After trading punts, Penn State’s offense finally figured it out in the air as Hackenberg found wide receiver Chris Godwin for a spectacular 49-yard catch. On the next play, Hackenberg found tight end Mike Gesicki on the left sideline for a 33-yard touchdown extending the lead to 20-7. It was Gesicki’s first recorded touchdown for Penn State, and on his birthday no less.
The Gesicki score didn’t seem to quiet the Army offense as Schurr broke several tackles scampering for a 56-yard touchdown run at the start of the fourth quarter to make it 20-14 with plenty of time to go.
Despite a hard fought ending, the Black Knights had no answer for the Nittany Lion defense.
Cabinda finished off the last Army drive with a huge sack on fourth and five. He had a career day accumulating 14 tackles and two sacks.
“Guys go down and second and third team guys are out there making plays, it’s really awesome,” Cabinda said. “It’s good for the confidence of the team. I think we did a good job today.”
Penn State has 21 sacks in just five games so far this season. 12 of the 21 sacks have come in the fourth quarter.
Safety Jordan Lucas had eight tackles and Bowen finished with six tackles of his own.
Penn State head coach James Franklin acknowledged the Lions need for improvement in several areas but was happy to get a win.
“There’s a lot of learning that still needs to take place, but we’d rather learn after a win to clean some of those things up.”
Franklin did emphasize that he was not happy with where the offense is at this point in the season.
Andrew King finished with eight tackles for Army, two of which for losses, and a sack.
Penn State will return to Beaver Stadium next Saturday to take on the Indiana Hoosiers. Be sure to tune into ComRadio for all the coverage.
Mike D’Avella is a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him email firstname.lastname@example.org.