#PSUvsPUR: FOS Game Breakdown

The good (Zach Zwinak), the bad (the opposing defense) and the ugly (the Lions' kick coverage) from Penn State's 45-21 win over struggling Purdue.

Against Purdue at Beaver Stadium Saturday, Penn State's offensive game plan was pretty clear.

It started with running the ball. And continued with running the ball. And ended with running the ball.

“We felt like we could run the ball,” head coach Bill O'Brien said. “I'm not sure if they felt like we could run the ball on them. … But we rushed the ball for 290 yards today, so I'd say that's pretty good.”

OK, so it was really only 289 yards en route to the 45-21 win, but you get the point. With Zach Zwinak leading the way, the Nittany Lions carried 58 times. They averaged five yards per carry and scored five rushing touhdowns.

Zwinak had three rushing scores, Bill Belton one and QB Christian Hackenberg one.

There were some other highlights, of course. WR Allen Robinson was his typical outstanding self, catching eight balls for 98 yards. CBs Adrian Amos and Jordan Lucas both had big games. And kicker Sam Ficken had an unlikely and memorable play (more on that later).

Here is how things played out.


MEN OF THE HOUR: Penn State's offensive line mauled the Boilermaker defense all afternoon. Game balls all around for this bunch.

CLOSE SECOND: Zwinak took advantage of the line's great work. He carried 26 times for 149 yards and three scores. He averaged 5.7 yards per carry.

CLOSE THIRD: Amos led Penn State with eight tackles. Among them were 2.5 stops for losses and a sack and a half.

TURNING POINT: With Penn State leading 31-21 in the third quarter -- and momentum on the Boilermakers' side -- DE Deion Barnes sacked Purdue QB Danny Etling, causing a fumble. DT Austin Johnson recovered at midfield. PSU followed by overcoming a holding penalty to put together a seven-play TD drive (Zwinak took it in) to put things out of reach.

SOLID STRATEGY: Obviously focusing on the run was big for the Penn State offense. … Defensively, coordinator John Butler dialed up all sorts of blitzes. Etling was sacked six times, with DBs, LBs and D-linemen all in the mix.

NUMBERS GAME: Penn State punted exactly zero times during the game.

BUSINESS AS USUAL: Robinson continues to shine. But once again, he had as many catches (eight) as the rest of the team combined.

SPECIAL DELIVERY: There was nothing very special about the kicking game for Penn State in this one.

WHAT'S UP WITH?

• Purdue having portable heaters on its sideline. Temperatures were in the 50s for the game.

• The Nittany Lions running the clock out when they got the ball at their own 29 with 59 seconds left in the first half? Purdue had just cut the lead to 28-14 on the long kickoff return and was getting the ball to start the second half.

• PSU giving up 223 yards to the worst passing offense in the Big Ten. The Boilers came in averaging 156.2 passing yards per game.

• Penn State continuing to put the ball on the ground. Belton lost a fumble. Though the official stats do not reflect it, it sure looked like Zwinak lost a ball (that PSU recovered), too.

• The Nittany Lions' lousy kickoff coverage. The “Hit Squad,” as O'Brien like to call it, may have to be renamed the “Miss Squad” after the Boilers burned it for 205 yards, including a 100-yard TD return by Raheem Mostert. O'Brien indicated that personnel changes will likely be needed there.

HIT SQUAD: If not for Ficken, Purdue would have had two KO returns for scores. The kicker threw his body at Akeem Hunt to limit a return to 37 yards in the third quarter. Had Hunt scored, State's lead would have been cut to 31-28.

HIDDEN HERO: LB Mike Hull is still slowed by a bad knee. But he had six tackles, caused a fumble and recovered a fumble.

LOST IN THE SHUFFLE: Senior OL Eric Shrive made his first career start as Penn State opened with a six-man offensive line.

DID YOU NOTICE?

• Redshirt freshman Geno Lewis took over the No. 1 WR spot opposite Robinson, replacing Brandon Felder. He caught three passes for 19 yards. Felder did not catch a pass in limited action.

• Redshirt frosh RB Akeel Lynch was back in action after missing two games with a knee sprain. He carried nine times for 44 yards and also returned a kickoff eight yards.

• True freshman LB Brandon Bell saw snaps behind starter Nyeem Wartman. Wartman replaced the injured Ben Kline. When Wartman whiffed on a tackle in the third quarter, he was immediately removed from the game and replaced by Bell. Bell later left the game with an undisclosed injury. When Wartman got back on the field, he forced a fumble.

• True freshman run-on WR Gregg Garrity returned one punt nine yards.

• Redshirt freshman Malik Golden saw extended action as a backup safety. He finished with one tackle.

• Redshirt junior DT Kyle Baublitz was one of Penn State's game captains. He said after the game he has decided not to use his final year of eligibility so he can focus on becoming a history teacher.

UNANSWERED QUESTION: Can the Lions send their senior class out on a high note when Nebraska visits for the final home game of the year next weekend?


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