UCF: Game Breakdown

The good, the bad and the ugly from Penn State's defenseless loss to the Knights at Beaver Stadium Saturday.

During his postgame press conference following Saturday's 34-31 loss to UCF at Beaver Stadium, Penn State coach Bill O'Brien time after time begged off directly answering questions. He kept saying, “I've gotta watch the film.”

We suppose he does.

But we're guessing this dud is not going to look much better the second time around. Knight Blake Bortles appeared to be every bit the future NFL quarterback O'Brien told reporters about earlier in the week, completing 20 of 27 passes for 288 yards, three scores and just one pick. And the UCF ground game dominated the PSU defense, cranking out 219 yards.

That 507-yard outburst -- coupled with the poor play of the Lions' defense -- more than off-set some stellar efforts on the offensive side of the ball for Penn State.

When O'Brien does subject himself to the film, this is some of what he'll see.

MAN OF THE HOUR: PSU receiver Allen Robinson was so good that UCF (wisely) resorted to interfering with him. He caught nine passes for 143 yards and a score, and drew four PI calls.

CLOSE SECOND: RB Zach Zwinak saw limited action in the first half (seven carries for 34 yards) but the staff cut him loose in the second. He finished with 21 carries for 128 yards and three scores.

CLOSE THIRD: Rookie QB Christian Hackenberg did his best to keep the Lions in the game, connecting on 21 of 28 passes for 262 yards and a score. He was not intercepted. He was not as good as Bortles. But he was good enough to help State post 31 points.

TURNING POINT: Trailing 31-24 in the fourth quarter, Penn State forced UCF into a third-and-9 from its own 29. Beaver Stadium was rocking. Bortles threw a pass for J.J. Worten that was broken up by CB Jordan Lucas, and for a fraction of a second it seemed like UCF would be punting for only the second time in the game. But Lucas was flagged for PI. The drive eventually led to a field goal that proved to be the winning margin for the Knights. FWIW, it looked like a good call.

SOLID STRATEGY: Veteran UCF coach George O'Leary gave Bortles the freedom to try some very tough throws. More often than not, he completed them.

NUMBERS GAME: Penn State gave up a total of 443 yards in its first two games. As noted earlier, it surrendered 507 Saturday.

BUSINESS AS USUAL: Robinson now has 23 catches for 405 yards on the season. In 2004, Tony Hunt led the Lions in receiving with 334 yards for the entire season.

SPECIAL DELIVERY: K Sam Ficken made a career-long 47-yard field goal and was just short on a 57-yard try before the half. The miss stopped a streak of 15 straight makes.


• Penn State's horrid tackling. It is officially fair to ask if the overall lack of live hitting in training camp -- while understandable on certain levels -- is coming back to haunt the Lions now.

• PSU's poor clock management. At the end of the first half, the staff let 8 to 10 seconds tick off before calling a timeout following a Hackenberg completion to TE Kyle Carter to the UCF 40. Facing second-and-2 with 29 seconds left, Hackenberg took forever to scan the field before being stopped for no gain. He was forced to clock the ball on third down, leading to Ficken's 57-yard attempt that was short.

• State's continued struggles on third down. The Lions were 2 for 8 Saturday and are now 4 of 34 on the season. Ouch.

• The defense's struggles on third down. UCF converted 7 of 12 tries.

• The lack of production from DE Deion Barnes, last season's Big Ten Freshman of the Year. He has five tackles, no tackles for loss and no sacks on the season. We get that he is facing double teams at times. But shouldn't that be opening up things for other pass-rushers? Barnes has also struggled vs. the run.

HIT SQUAD: As poorly as the PSU defense tackled, we're not going to credit anyone for a great hit.

HIDDEN HEROS: Backup RBs Bill Belton and Akeel Lynch were both effective. Belton carried five times for 36 yards and Lynch had five carries for 32 yards.

LOST IN THE SHUFFLE: Rookie TE Adam Breneman entered the game with no catches but had four for 22 yards in this game. That included an early fourth-down conversion.


• LBs Mike Hull and Ben Kline, and safety Ryan Keiser -- who missed all or part of the Eastern Michigan game due to injury -- were all back in uniform. Hull and Keiser both played as reserves, making four and two tackles, respectively. Kline played on special teams.

Adam Gress made his first start of the season at RT. But the man he replaced, Garry Gilliam, also saw significant snaps with the first team.

• S Adrian Amos rotated over to corner to replace Trevor Williams late in the game. Defensive coordinator John Butler said it was a coach's decision so PSU could get more experience in the secondary.

UNANSWERED QUESTION: Is Bortles the best pro-style quarterback the Lions will face this season? (They had better hope so.)

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