Penn State vs. Kent State: Gameday Grades
One might be able to chalk it up to the rain, but Christian Hackenberg had a rough game. The true freshman was 13 for 35 for 176 yards and a score while also throwing an interception. When he had time in the pocket, he made decent reads, but many of his passes either sailed on him or ended up as one-hoppers. He also fumbled the ball deep inside Kent State territory on a pump fake, but Penn State recovered. I would imagine the Virginia native will be hoping for better weather when Penn State travels to Bloomington, Indiana in two weeks to take on the Hoosiers.
The three-headed monster of Zach Zwinak, Bill Belton, and Akeel Lynch rushed for a total of 279 yards on 42 carries. Each back had a gain of at least 20 yards. Zwinak had three TD runs (each under 2 yards) for the second straight week and now has eight touchdowns through four games this season after rushing for six scores all of the 2012 season. Belton had 90 yards on the ground and 15 through the air, while also adding a receiving touchdown. Lynch was the top gainer for the Nittany Lions, carrying the ball 14 times for 123 yards, including the longest play from scrimmage in the game for either team; a 43-yard run late in the fourth quarter. He did have a fumble near the end zone, but Penn State recovered. Keep giving the ball to all three and ride the hot hand.
There wasn't much room for Penn State's receivers to work on the muddy Beaver Stadium turf. Allen Robinson and Brandon Felder each had a game-high three receptions, but the Nittany Lions couldn't really get anything going through the air. Robinson was targeted several times on deep balls, including four separate occasions on fades in the end zone, but came away with very little. Geno Lewis and Alex Kenney were both thrown to once, but came away with nothing. Richy Anderson was thrown to often, but only hauled in one pass for seven yards. Tight Ends Kyle Carter and Adam Breneman each had a catch in space, gaining 29 and 27 yards respectively. Chalk their struggles and lack of long completions up to the weather and Hackenberg's struggles to find momentum.
Offensive Line: B
It's hard to criticize an offensive line during a game where there are nearly 300 rushing yards, but the pass blocking left something to be desired. Hackenberg was rushed from the blind side quite a bit, but also held onto the ball too long. However, there were several big holes for the running backs and no penalties for the front five.
Defensive Line: A-
Penn State's defense held the Golden Flashers to 190 yards of total offense, and a lot of that effort came from the D-Line. Tackle Kyle Baublitz and Defensive End Deon Barnes accounted for 1.5 tackles for loss and held Kent State to 56 yards rushing.
Mike Hull's absence didn't have a big impact as Penn State's linebackers played much better than last week against UCF. After much criticism directed towards the “thud” tackling program of the off season, Penn State lived up to its Linebacker U nickname with much improved tackling. Glenn Carson finished with a team-high seven tackles (two for loss) and Nyeem Wartman had a pass breakup that he nearly intercepted.
Defensive Backs: B+
The secondary looked much improved as well against a Kent State team that couldn't get the ball going through the air. Penn State held Kent State quarterbacks to a combined 17 of 36 for 134 yards and an interception. Safety Ryan Keiser had the pick, as well as a sack. The defensive backs' tackling was also better as a whole; keeping Golden Flashers receivers from breaking any big gains. However the coverage was a bit soft at times in the middle of the field.
Special Teams: A-
Sam Ficken was 4/4 on PATs and 2/2 on field goals, including an incredible 54-yard field goal in the pouring rain. Hackenberg had the game's best punt; placing a pooch kick at the Golden Flashers' seven yard line for 43 yards.
Bill O'Brien deviated too far from the run game in the second half in an attempt to get Hackenberg in a rhythm in the second half. Too many passes thrown on early downs; leading to long conversion attempts.
The rain scared away about two-thirds of the student section after halftime, but was still loud enough to disrupt Kent State in the huddle and at the line of scrimmage. The crowd bust out in ovation as Neil Diamond's "Sweet Caroline" graced Beaver Stadium for the first time since 2011.
It was about what you would expect from a flooded Happy Valley. Hackenberg struggled and the crowd was lacking in the second half, but the defense allowed zero points for the second time this year and the running game dominated for the offense.
Kristopher Rogers is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email email@example.com.