AKRON: FOS Game Breakdown

The good, the bad, the hot and the humid from Penn State's home-opening win over the Zips.

In the week leading up to Penn State's tilt with Akron at Beaver Stadium Saturday, Nittany Lion coach James Franklin refused to acknowledge the fact that his team might be a bit sapped following the hectic travel schedule that accompanied its season-opening win over UCF in Dublin, Ireland.

“I truly believe in how you talk and how you think and how you approach things is how things go,” he said in explaining the mind-over-jet-lag approach.

But the game against the Zips painted a different picture. Played in sweltering heat, it featured a PSU outfit that did not look nearly as explosive and jacked-up as it did vs. UCF.

The result? A plodding 21-3 victory that left lingering questions about the Nittany Lions' ground attack, saw star QB Christian Hackenberg look at times mortal, and featured an otherwise stout PSU defense that did not force a turnover.

That said, after Akron marched the field to open the game, only to blow a chance at an early lead when Tom O'Leary was wide left on a 31-year field-goal try, Penn State took a 7-0 lead later in the first quarter and choked out the Zips the rest of the way.

Even after an early-third quarter turnover led to an Akron field goal that cut it to 7-3, you never really got the sense the Lions were in any sort of trouble. They pulled away with a pair of Hackenberg TD passes to TE Jesse James, and head to Rutgers next week at 2-0 and having survived a dreaded trap game.

“We are going to enjoy wins around here,” Franklin said.

No matter how tired they might be.

MAN OF THE HOUR: Have to go with a defender here, and no one was better all around than MLB Mike Hull. He had 11 tackles, one sack, one tackle for loss and a pass breakup.

CLOSE SECOND: CB Jordan Lucas looks like he is approaching beast mode. He made seven stops to go along with a sack, a tackle for loss and a pass breakup.

CLOSE THIRD: James only caught two balls. But on one he bulled his way into the end zone and on the other he broke free for a 44-yard score.

TURNING POINT: Not sure there was one in this game. But you knew it was over for the Zips when they failed to convert a fourth-and-inches from the PSU 38 while trailing 14-3 early in the fourth quarter. LB Brandon Bell and DE C.J. Olaniyan tossed RB Conor Hundley for a two-yard loss on the play.

SOLID STRATEGY: Hackenberg threw for 319 yards in this game, and in truth probably could have thrown for 500. But the PSU staff committed to the ground game -- running 31 times -- even after early struggles. The Lions ended up with a net of 106 yards rushing, which is at least a step in the right direction.

NUMBERS GAME: Akron ran 71 plays for 277 yards. PSU ran 68 plays for 425 yards.

BUSINESS AS USUAL: Redshirt freshman WR DaeSean Hamilton had seven more catches (for 69 yards) but left the field with the trainer before the team singing of the alma mater. Fellow WR Geno Lewis had six grabs for 98 yards. Quite the dynamic duo early in the season.

SPECIAL DELIVERY: Redshirt freshman punter Chris Gulla was outstanding. He averaged 48.8 yards per punt on five kicks, with three downed inside the 20. His net average was 45.4 yards. Yow.

GROUND & POUND: When Penn State opened the fourth quarter with three straight Wildcat rushes for a total of 37 yards, Akron was forced to call timeout to adjust. It marked the first time this season the Lion O-line had imposed its will on a defensive front.


• Penn State's punt return game. We thought this was supposed to be explosive. Akron punted seven times. Lion Jesse Della Valle only attempted to return one (for just five yards). We love JDV. Not sure he has to-the-house burst, though.

• Hackenberg's interceptions. He now has four through two games, including a pair of red-zone picks Saturday. Sure looks like he is trying to force the action down there.

• The red zone being the dead zone. PSU only made it into the area three times, with the lone score coming on James' 13-yard grab. That's not enough for a team with nearly 500 yards of offense.

HIDDEN HERO: Von Walker opened the second half with a nice 35-yard kickoff return when the Zips kicked away from speedy rookie Grant Haley.

LOST IN THE SHUFFLE: RB Bill Belton had nine carries for 36 yards to go along with four catches for 49 yards and a score. He also tried a halfback option pass to Hackenberg.


• Haley saw second-team reps at field CB, behind Trevor Williams. He was also the dime back.

• Veteran WR Matt Zanellato was back in action after missing the opener with an undisclosed injury. He did not catch a pass and by our count was only targeted once.

• DT Tarow Barney was in uniform after not dressing for UCF. His right hand was heavily wrapped. He saw his first action of the season in the second quarter and finished with one tackle.

• When will LB Bell lost his helmet and had to leave the field for a play in the second quarter, he was replaced by the former RB Walker. True freshmen LBs Jason Cabinda and Troy Reeder did not play and remain eligible for redshirts.

• OG Derek Dowrey saw several snaps as an up back -- or essentially an extra offensive lineman a few steps behind the line.

• Attendance was listed at 97,354, but the crowd appeared to be thinner than that.

UNANSWERED QUESTION: Will the Lions look fresher when they welcome Rutgers to the Big Ten on the road next week?

Fight On State Top Stories