Wildcats Take Down Lions 29-6

Penn State was outplayed in all facets in its first loss of the year.

Northwestern 29, Penn State 6

For the first time since 2004, Penn State didn't score a touchdown at home.

That led to the Lions first loss of the season.

Penn State (4-1) was outgained 361-266 on a day it could not run, nor do much else right. The Wildcats did not commit a turnover, and averaged seven yards per pass.

Christan Hackenberg finished 22 of 45 for 216 yards. He also tossed a pick six that helped bury the Lions late.

Third Quarter

Penn State trails Northwestern 14-6, hardly the most important news after three quarters at Beaver Stadium.

What matters is that Wildcat defensive back Matthew Harris gave a thumbs-up to the crowd as he was carted off near the end of the third quarter. He sustained a blow to the head trying to stop a scrambling Christian Hackenberg. Harris stopped him, but remained down as Beaver Stadium fell quiet and medical personnel scrambled to his side. After an approximately 10 minute delay, he was carted into the south tunnel. There was no immediate update on his condition.

On the field, the Lions did add a field goal when Ficken was true from 36 yards. That was the only scoring in the stanza. NW is outgaining PSU 282-234, and have 14 first downs to the Lions 12.

Penn State has the ball and is driving to begin the fourth quarter.

Halftime

Sam Ficken booted a 42-yard field goal in the final moments of the first half, yet Penn State still trails visiting Northestern, 14-3.

It marked the only points for the Lions in the second quarter. Northwestern generated little, as well, and Ficken had a different second quarter attempted blocked.

Northwestern is outgaining Penn State 232-183 through 30 minutes. PSU QB Christian Hackenberg is 12 of 21 for just 121 yards, and is also the leading rusher with four yards on six carries.

Penn State will receive to start the second half.

First Quarter

Could Penn State have drawn up an uglier start to Saturday's Homecoming clash with Northwestern

It's hard to imagine.

Northwestern leads Penn State 14-0 at the end of one. Quarterback Trevor Siemian has twice scored from a yard out. The only positive for the hosts is that the Wildcats have missed a field goal and had a fake stopped well short of the goal line.

James Franklin's Lions didn't record their first down until the dying minutes of the first quarter on a 18-yard completion from Christian Hackenberg to Jesse James. Penn State has mustered nothing on offense and even less on defense, a unit that is without starter Nyeem Wartman at linebacker due to injury.

The first quarter stats paint the picture: NW is outgaining PSU 166-31 and have eight first downs to the Lions 1.

Pregame

Penn State (4-0, 1-0) faces Northwestern (2-1, 0-0) at noon in Beaver Stadium Saturday, as the Nittany Lions look to take one more step toward the six wins needed to secure their first bowl bid since their postseason eligibility was restored by the NCAA earlier this month.

PSU, which is on the cusp of breaking into the Associated Press and USA Today/ESPN Top 25s, has won six straight in the series, including a rousing 39-28 comeback in the last meeting (2012 at Beaver Stadium). State leads the all-time series, 13-3, with NU's only wins coming in 1995, 2003 and 2004.

The Lions have not started a season at 5-0 since 2008.

The game is being carried by the BTN.

Some Quick Hitters to consider while you get ready for the game.

FRANKLIN TAKING NOTICE

First-year Penn State coach James Franklin is keeping a close eye on the following players for the Wildcats:

• DE Ifeadi Odenigbo (No. 7), a 6-foot-3, 240-pounder who is listed on the second team but has a pair of sacks and three forced fumbles. “He's the guy that's really jumping off the tape for us right now as a pass-rusher and doing some nice things,” Franklin said.

• S Ibraheim Campbell (No. 24), a 5-11, 220-pounder who has 21 tackles, an interception and a forced fumble.

Ibraheim Campbell

• DE Dean Lowry (No. 94), a 6-6, 280-pounder who has a team-high 2.5 sacks.

• QB Trevor Siemian (No. 13), a 6-3, 215-pounder who has completed 65 of 110 passes for 614 yards, two touchdowns and three picks. “He seems like he's been there forever,” Franklin said.

• Superback Dan Vitale (No. 40), a 6-2, 235-pounder who leads the team with 11 catches for 103 yards.

PREVIOUS MEETING

While the head coach at Vanderbilt, Franklin faced Northwestern once. The game was played in Evanston in 2012, with the Wildcats winning, 23-13. Siemian completed 10 of 16 for 91 yards in the game.

How much has that helped Franklin and his current staff -- most of whom he brought from Vandy -- prepare for Pat Fitzgerald's NU squad?

“Yeah, I don't think there's any doubt that having history with people, with teams, with coaching staffs, with players and things like that, there comes a little bit of a comfort level there or an understanding,” Franklin said. “I don't know if one game really does that, but it's better than none.”

In case you missed it, check out Franklin’s Wednesday press conference after practice, where (among many other things) he talked about how long he has known Fitzferald.

RECORDS WATCH

• QB Christian Hackenberg needs three TD passes to move to 27 for his career and break into PSU's top 10 all-time in that department.

• RB Zach Zwinak needs one 100-yard rushing game to move to 13 for his career and tie Curtis Enis for eighth on PSU's all-time list.

• K Sam Ficken needs two field goals to move to 40 in his career and tie Massimo Manco for fifth on PSU's all-time list.

Sam Ficken

HAPPY HOMECOMING?

This marks Homecoming week for Penn State. The Lions are 68-21-5 all-time in such games, including three straight wins. The 2012 season featured the comeback victory over NU and in 2013 PSU beat Michigan in quadruple overtime.

Franklin is asking fans for a hand in this game.

“They are a no huddle tempo team that does a lot of communication at the line of scrimmage,” the coach said of NU. “So, what I would love to do is make it impossible for them to communicate at the line of scrimmage with our fans and our students doing a great job there.”

A crowd in excess of 100,000 is expected for the game.

INJURY REPORT

OG Brian Gaia missed the UMass game with an unspecified injury but should play vs. the Wildcats.

WEATHER REPORT

It is supposed to be a beautiful day in Happy Valley, with temperatures in the 70s and light wind. Need more weather info: Check the weather.

CALLING THE GAME

On the call for BTN are Eric Collins, former Illinois LB J Leman and sideline reporter Tina Cervasio.

BOTTOM LINE

Penn State opened as a 10-point favorite. The line has moved between 10 and 11.5 since then.

Check out the FOS staff picks: The Fearless Forecast.


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