PSU vs. BC: Pinstripe Game Breakdown

The good, the bad and the ugly as the Nittany Lions bowled over the Eagles in Yankee Stadium.

BRONX, N.Y. -- Boston College coach Steve Addazio ought to learn a thing or two about perspective. After his team dropped a 31-30 overtime decision to Penn State in the Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium Saturday, Addazio bellyached about the Eagle program he took over in 2013.

“We are in a major rebuilding scenario,” he said. “Most people on the inside that know would tell you this is a four-year to five-year rebuilding process.”

Which would have been fine, had he been playing ANY other opponent.

But in the Nittany Lions, the Eagles were facing a team that was:

• Operating under its fifth head coach in the last three years.

• Hammered by NCAA sanctions in 2012, and still feeling the sting of the penalties.

• Somehow survived the worst scandal in the history of sports.

• Began the season not even eligible to play in the post-season.

You see, Penn State knows from rebuilding.

Yet first-year coach James Franklin's bunch, which trailed by two scores late in the third quarter Saturday, did what it has been doing the last few years. It scratched and clawed and fought, and in the end of this one was rewarded with the tight victory to secure another winning record (7-6).

Which is why, after the game, Franklin was late getting to his press conference.

“I took a lot of time in the locker room to thank the seniors,” Franklin said shortly after he arrived. “These guys will be remembered forever, for standing strong when we needed them to stand strong, to lay the foundation for great things to come.”

Here is how it all went down Saturday, as the Lions -- as a team and in some instances individually -- overcame adversity in big ways.

MAN OF THE HOUR

QB Christian Hackenberg completed 34 of 50 passes for 371 yards, four touchdowns and -- most importantly -- no interceptions. Just goes to show what getting healthy can do for a QB. He set school bowl records for completions and yardage, and tied the mark for passing TDs.

CLOSE SECOND

Senior K Sam Ficken hit a game-tying 45-yard field goal late in regulation to force overtime, then hit the game-winning extra point in OT. What a way to end a career that began on a difficult note.

CLOSE THIRD

WR Geno Lewis had no catches in the first half. But he was clutch during Penn State's big rally, and finished the game with seven grabs for 82 yards and a score.

TURNING POINT

It would be easy to point to BC K Mike Knoll flubbing an extra point after the Eagles opened OT with a touchdown (and giving Ficken a chance to win with his extra point).

But we're going to go with Penn State's response after BC took a 21-7 lead after two quick touchdowns in the third quarter. Down by a pair of scores, Hackenberg led the Lions on a six-play, 63-yard march that culminated with a 7-yard TD pass to Lewis on the final play of the third quarter. The Lions were right back in it.

SOLID STRATEGY

Penn State went with an up-tempo offense throughout the second half and it really helped Hackenberg find his rhythm.

NUMBERS GAME

Talk about a clash of styles. PSU had 371 passing yards and only 82 rushing yards. BC had 289 rushing yards (a season-high vs. the Lions) and only 97 passing yards.

BUSINESS AS USUAL

This was not a great game for the Lion defense. But PSU did have five tackles for loss and came up big down the stretch in regulation.

SPECIAL DELIVERY

Penn State's TD drive to end the third quarter was set up by a nifty 26-yard return of a short boot by Von Walker.

WHAT'S UP WITH?

• Penn State killing itself with penalties, especially early in the game. The Lions were flagged four times in the first quarter alone. It really hurt their momentum.

• Penn State's inability to get the ball from the center to the QB. The Lions had one bad Angelo Mangiro-to-Hackenberg snap in the red zone in the second quarter and BC recovered. They had another from the Eagles' 29 in the third quarter after a nice drive, and again lost it. Potentially killer stuff in a tight game, especially for a team that struggles offensively.

• The officials missing a blatant block in the back on PSU's Brad Bars on a 24-punt return by BC's Sherman Alston in the second quarter. The crowd began booing before the play was even over, and really let the refs have it when the illegal play was shown on the stadium's giant screen.

HIT SQUAD

CB Trevor Williams slammed BC WR Shakim Phillips in the fourth quarter, forcing an incompletion.

HIDDEN HEROES

Penn State's offensive line, which lost a starter in the first quarter (see below) did a terrific job of protecting Hackenberg, particularly in the second half. It was good to see the much-maligned unit finally have a little success.

LOST IN THE SHUFFLE

TE Kyle Carter, the former All-Big Ten pick who has not been much of a factor the last two seasons, had three grabs for 30 yards. That included the game-tying score in overtime, a 10-yarder from Hackenberg, before Ficken won the game.

DID YOU NOTICE?

• CB Jordan Lucas did not start and was held out the entire first quarter. Freshman Grant Haley got the start in his place and fellow freshman Christian Campbell also played the position in the first quarter. Franklin said Lucas was benched for missing a curfew. But the veteran was back in action in the second quarter, and had a key sack in the fourth.

• Senior OG Miles Dieffenbach limped off the field with assistance following the last play of the first quarter (and was later taken off the field on a cart). He was initially replaced by Brendan Mahon for a series before Derek Dowry took over for Mahon. It was a tough way for Dieffenbach to end his career, considering he missed most of his final season while recovering from a torn ACL sustained last spring.

UNANSWERED QUESTION

Can Penn State use this as a springboard into next season?


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