AKRON: The High Five
Penn State had some slow-going on a hot, humid day, but managed to knock off Akron 21-3 to hand James Franklin his first home victory in Happy Valley. Here's a look at the highs and lows from the contest. THE HIGH FIVE Just Win: Although the Lions had some struggles the game they were never against the ropes because of the Zips. Despite turning the ball over three times PSU managed to settle down late to pull away. Zettle Down: Once again DT Anthony Zettle set the tone for the defense from the outset of the game, with his aggressive play that forced a (missed) field goal on the Zips' opening drive. He led the front four, blowing up a series of plays on the day and helping the line bring down QB Kyle Pohl time and again to snuff out drives. On the whole, the defense bailed out the offense more than a few times. Catching On: Christian Hackenberg actually looked like a sophomore for much of the game (more on that in the lows), but he managed to hit seven receivers for 319 yards, moving to six 300+ yard career games, tying Matt McGloin. What was most impressive was seeing his receivers step up, particularly Geno Lewis, who is becoming a clutch go-to target and Jesse James who caught two passes, both for touchdowns. Better Late: Although the run game was stagnant early on, the PSU coaches focused squarely on it at the end with flashes from Bill Belton, who managed 36 yards on nine carries and Akeel Lynch who had seven carries for 45 yards. Why Lynch is not seeing more time is curious though. Zach Zwinak managed only 30 yards on 10 carries. The question is can they getting the run game going more early and often? Cover Me: The Lions overall had some solid kick coverage, limiting the Zips to 18 yards on kickoffs and 17 yards on punt returns. The special teams managed to help win some key battles for field position, giving Akron some long field to work with. Be Aggressive: The defense throughout a myriad of blitz packages that resulted in forced decisions, sacks and opportunities. The defensive staff brought several looks that seemingly "tested the fence" for weak points to exploit. It was a nice dimension to see from the defensive side. THE LOW FIVE Bag O Tricks: Penn State has to limit the gimmicks, like the Belton halfback pass to Hackenberg...or anything that splits out the QB wide - at least at this early stage of the season. Even the wildcat seems to disrupt any momentum, flatten the tempo and is inconsistent at best. No Passing: While he found a somewhat of a rhythm late in the game, Hackenberg is still forcing balls into tight spaces and trying to make big plays. This resulted in two interceptions. The second quarter in particular was rough for him, with a passing drought that saw him go 0 for 6 and 3 for 12 for a streak. He's young and still learning, but it's critical that he learn from thee mistakes, which he acknowledged this past week. Time Out: In both halves Penn State burned some timeouts early, seemingly due to some communication breakdowns. The squad needs to get this put of its system now, as those timeouts will become ever more critical as the competition increases. Not On the Ball: Three turnovers in this game and six in the last two contests if of major concern. The offense is playing haphazard with the ball, be it the risky, tight tosses or simple miscues like the missnap to Bill Belton. The turnover ration has to be shifted quickly ads they have lost six turnovers and generated only one in two games. Back It Up: Up by 18 points with four minutes left would have seemingly been an ideal moment to rest Hackenberg and get some backup reps in. First, if nothing more than to work Trace McSorely, but more importantly to protect Hackenberg from an unnecessary injury from the few big hits he took in the final drive. BONUS LOW Pillow Soft: There were times where Penn State's secondary went to the old school soft coverage approach PSU has used for years. This allowed Kyle Pohl and his receivers to gash up the secondary at times and put some drives together. When the Lions tightened things up they made things much more difficult for the Akron air attack.
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