Penn State Outlasts San Diego State In A Costly Win
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – Penn State (3-1) continued its unbeaten streak at home this season with a win against the San Diego State (1-3) 37-21, but it came with a price.
Penn State safety Jordan Lucas was standing in street clothes on the sideline at the start of Saturday’s game with an undisclosed injury. The Nittany Lions’ other starting safety, Marcus Allen, left the game after one series in the game with yet another undisclosed injury.
The injury bug continued to spread when running backs Akeel Lynch and Saquon Barkley left due to apparent leg injuries in the first half. Brandon Bell and Evan Schwan also got roughed up during the game.
“You get an injury, you don’t really know the specifics and details until the next morning,” head coach James Franklin said. “Not only do I not share [details about injuries], I wouldn’t have anything even if I did at this point.”
With just under five minutes remaining in the first quarter, quarterback Christian Hackenberg found wide receiver Saeed Blacknall for a 45-yard reception to set-up the Nittany Lions for a touchdown. Blacknall had a career game with his longest reception (46 yards) and a total of 102 yards receiving.
“Each receiver has his own identity; everyone is a different type of receiver,” Blacknall said. “When you get all of us going at once, I think we are going to be pretty tough to deal with.”
Hackenberg then threw his first of three touchdown passes of the night. Hackenberg dumped a screen pass to Saquon Barkley near the line of scrimmage. Barkley then turned a simple pass into a highlight-reel 22-yard touchdown.
On the ensuing kickoff, San Diego State’s Rashaad Penny returned the kick for a 100-yard touchdown tying the game at seven.
Penn State kicker Joey Julius broke the tie by hitting two field goals to put the Nittany Lions over the Aztecs 13-7.
Rashaad Penny sparked the Aztecs’ offense to fight back when he had a 55-yard carry to the Penn State 20 yard line. That rush was the longest run against the Penn State defense since 2013. Quarterback Maxwell Smith then found Mikah Holder for a 19-yard touchdown pass to take a 14-13 lead over Penn State.
The turning point of the game came with back-to-back Aztec turnovers that ultimately translated into 14 points for Penn State.
The first turnover came when Lloyd Mills muffed a punt that was recovered by Chris Godwin at San Diego State’s 27-yard line. The Penn State offense capitalized on the turnover when Hackenberg found running back Mark Allen for a 13-yard touchdown pass.
The second came shortly after the first when Garrett Sickles forced a fumble that was recovered by Anthony Zettel. Hackenberg came in to find Godwin for an 11-yard touchdown pass to give the Nittany Lions a 27-14 lead at the half.
Zettel was playing with a heavy heart in Saturday’s game due to his father passing away the night prior.
“This is something that [Zettel] and his family have been dealing with for sometime now; really the last three weeks,” Franklin said. “There was no pressure for him to play the last three weeks; felt like that was something that his dad and his family would want him to do.”
In the third quarter, Penn State gave the ball over to San Diego State when DeAndre Thompkins fumbled a punt return on the Penn State 20 yard line that led to an Aztec touchdown. This cut the score within six with Penn State leading 27-21.
The Nittany Lions drove the nail in the coffin at the beginning of the fourth quarter when Carl Nassib forced an Aztec fumble that was recovered by Penn State’s Austin Johnson who rumbled down the field for a 71-yard touchdown.
“I remember everyone hitting on the head and I was like ya’ll got to back up, I can’t breathe right now,” Johnson said. “I couldn’t breathe, but I am very conditioned I can run around a good bit.”
Joey Julius added the final three points of the game with a 26-year field goal to make the score 37-21.
Penn State will host Army next Saturday with a noon kickoff.
Mandy Bell is a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact her, email firstname.lastname@example.org.