Monthly Archives: September 2015

Nittany Lions Poised to Clash with Army Team Coming Off Huge Win

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The Army West Point Black Knights won their first game on the road in the last 21 attempts this past Saturday at Eastern Michigan, and they will be looking to keep the momentum going when they head into Happy Valley for a showdown against the Penn State Nittany Lions on Saturday.

While there is a very slim chance that Army will leave the field with a victory, all esteemed programs such as Penn State are honored to be able to play military academies known for their grit, determination and toughness from the opening kick until the final whistle.

Penn State has showed plenty of fight and toughness over the last three games after being absolutely embarrassed in Philadelphia against a tough Temple squad to start the season. At home against San Diego state this past Saturday, the Nittany Lions had their way with their opponent in virtually every sense.

Led by quarterback Christian Hackenberg, Penn State racked up 400 yards on exactly 70 plays from scrimmage. Compare this to the anemic 180 yards they gained on 52 players in the aforementioned opener against Temple, and the level of improvement was enough for many Penn State fans to breathe a deep sigh of relief.

In order for them to continue the march toward their lofty goals in 2015, they will have to dispatch of this Army team by a handful of touchdowns. For the Black Knights, accomplishing gains through the air and stopping opponents from doing so have both been ongoing issues. They’ll come into this game with the 118th-overall ranked passing offense, and the 93rd-ranked overall defense against the pass. They are gaining less than 100 yards per game through the air and allowing well over 250.

This creates a situation where Army must successfully run the ball throughout the game in order to keep the chains moving and have any chance of stacking up points. This is another glaring problem, as Penn State has the 13th-ranked overall run defense, allowing just a fraction over 90 yards on the ground per game.

For those savvy in the art of college football game planning, these stats have basically backed Army into a corner where they will need to throw the ball much more than they are comfortable with in order to compete. That could play right into the hands of a hungry Penn State defense, and this could be a blowout by halftime.

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Crystal Ball: Chrstian Hackenberg’s Future

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When Christian Hackenberg arrived on campus in Happy Valley as a 6′ 4″ 18-year-old in the spring of 2013, hopes were sky-high. The pocket passer came out of Fort Union Military Academy in Virginia, and ESPN ranked him as the single best pro-style quarterback in all of the 2013 college freshman class.

He won Big 10 Freshman of the Week five times in his first dozen games and tossed twice as many touchdowns as interceptions. It appeared as though Hackenberg would be a surefire first-rounder in NFL after three quick seasons.

Unfortunately, Hackenberg’s sophomore campaign was disappointing by all standards. Dedicated fans of his wrote it off to the fact that there were changes in the coaching staff and inconsistencies in the offensive game plan.

His junior year began just a few weeks ago, and many of the most important talking heads in the business agreed that he had as much pressure as anyone in all of college football heading into the 2015 season. A couple games in, it would be difficult to classify Hackenberg as anything more than a middle-of-the-road quarterback. He’s barely eclipsed 100 passing yards in each of his first two games, and his completion percentage sags below 50%.

Although Penn State beat Buffalo by a couple of touchdowns in Week 2, Hackenberg was outperformed by an unknown Bulls QB who certainly will not entertain ideas of being drafted in the NFL. Should Hackenberg?

At this point in time, it seems as though he would be a low round, low-risk prospect. He still has the size and strength to compete at the professional level, but teams in need of a quarterback who can go into a professional system immediately would likely pass on Hackenberg given what he has shown them in the last year and a half.

The most likely scenario involves the 20-year-old out of Lehighton, Pennsylvania catching on with a team as a third or perhaps second stringer heading into his first preseason. It is a brutal reality for those on the cusp of making teams, but his potential value at the professional level will likely be judged by a handful of preseason series under center featuring fellow second and third stringers hoping to play football for living.

Hackenberg is a likable guy and a hard worker. Fans will be hoping for the best this season and the next, but without a serious uptick in areas such as calmly surveying the field in long yardage situations and confidently throwing the deep ball, Hackenberg’s glory days will forever be his 2013 season at the helm of the Nittany Lions.

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PSU Falls Short of Victory and Expectations at Temple

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Penn State Football fans came into 2015 with a hopefulness and excitement that reached peaks not seen during the past several seasons. Highly-touted Quarterback Christian Hackenberg is now a junior, and although his soph campaign didn’t go very well, it still appears to many that the young man has the mold of a professional quarterback.

Everything went according to plan throughout the first 15 minutes of a tough opening day road game against the temple Owls. Penn State stymied the Owl offensive attack, forcing a handful of punts on their first few possessions. State found holes in the line and secondary via their sizable offensive line, getting  out to a 10-0 lead just a handful of minutes in.

Sadly, the joy and fortune was short-lived. Temple coaches quickly regrouped and game planned an approach that backed Hackenberg into a corner, making the PSU offense afraid to take risks downfield or even throw the ball across the middle for short yardage. Instead, Hackenberg began to rely on hitting running backs and tight ends in the flat after blitzers came free, and the temperature in the pocket got hotter as the game wore on.

When the final whistle blew, State left town on the short end of a 27-10 score. As they made the quick trip back to Happy Valley, a number of question marks emerged as the hope and excitement that fans brought into the season tapered off in the hours following a disappointing afternoon.

Fans who follow this program closely know that they have endured unimaginable adversity over the last handful of seasons. Following the abrupt and scandalous departure of Joe Paterno and his death soon thereafter, the cornerstones that the program were built upon crumbled before the eyes of millions of folks who make up the conglomeration of students, alumni and passionate fans of the University and its football team.

But alas, the sky is not falling. Penn State will likely be favorites in each of their next five matchups, which will all take place in University Park. This streak will hopefully prepare them for an October 17 showdown at Ohio State against a Buckeye team that will almost certainly come into the game undefeated.

If the Nittany Lions waltz into the battle with a record of 5-1, they could make things far more interesting than anyone dares to envision at this point in time. To a large extent, Hackenberg will determine the success of this team, and no one in all of college football has more pressure upon their still-growing shoulders.

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