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.