Penn State managed to advance to 5-1 on the season with a 29-7 victory over Indiana at Beaver Stadium Saturday. It was a game that saw strong efforts on both sides of the ball for the Nittany Lions. Review the highs an lows of the Homecoming victory here.
THE HIGH FIVE
TWEAK IT: Give Penn State credit for another victory and one that was decisive. Despite Indiana dealing with a rash of injuries that required it to rely on its third-string quarterback late in the game, the PSU coaches made some good adjustments that did not allow a score after the first quarter (even with recoveries of a fumble and an onside kick by the Hoosiers).
GETTING AIR: While he still had some issues at times, QB Christian Hackenberg put together his best performance of the season so far, going 21 for 39 for 262 yards and two passing touchdowns (he laso ran in two scores). Part of his success was due to the play-calling and an increase in intermediate routes with some slants. Hackenberg deserves credit for delivering the ball more consistently. Also, not that you want to rely on it regularly, but his ability to spot open field and make some runs, including the two touchdowns, was instrumental in this game.
MIX IT UP: It was exciting to see some new flavors from the offense, like the wheel route to Brandon Polk — who was fantastic on the play — that shocked the Hoosier defense and went for a 39-yard touchdown. The issue is we didn't see more consistent variety with the offensive playcalling — more on that later.
FAIR SHARE: A big key in the passing game's success was the fact that the ball got spread around to a variety of receivers, which kept the Hoosier defense guessing. Eight receivers each had two or more receptions. One the big dimensions was the fact that Penn State's tight ends, namely Mike Gesicki and Kyle Carter, got more invovled in the air attack, combing for five catches for 51 yards.
POWER LINE: To say the Nittany Lions' defensive line was dominating is an understatement. The line combined for four sacks and 4.5 TFLs as Carl Nassib, Garrett Sickels, Austin Johnson and Anthony Zettel tore up the pocket, disrupting the Hoosiers' pace and once again creating short fields.
THE LOW FIVE
CHANGE UP: While we mentioned the flashes of excitement the offense showed at times, the play-calling overall still needs to be more dynamic to start using the speed and vertaility of the unit's players. The wheel route to Polk was a great distraction that opened up things for him and created a mismatch. The staff has to start using more of these creative looks rather than relying on power, up-the-gut runs.
OPPORTUNITY LOST: Again, the defense created turnovers and short fields for the offense, which were squanded early. But PSU managed to put points on the board when John Reid intercepted IU QB DannyCameron. The key is taking consistent advantage of the short fields the defense is providing the offense. As an aside, the receiving unit had their fair share of dropped balls, which have to be tightened up.
NOT SO SPECIAL: Two missed extra points (what happened to Joey Julius?) and a kickoff out of bounds were the low of an off day for the special teams. The kicking game got back on track as Tyler Davis stepped in to nail a 30-yard feild goal and extra point.
RUN AND DONE: Despite a depleated backfield with Akeel Lynch and Saquon Barkley still on the sidelines, the offenseive staff still insisted on going up the gut time and again in this game. Give Nick Scott and Mark Allen (who ran 8 carriers for 57 yards and 8 carries for 28 yards, respectively) credit. But the run game needs some dimensions of misdirection and variety to open things up for the back-up backs.
TICK TOCK: While Hackenberg deserves credit for upping his game against the Hoosiers, he still sometimes lacks the mental clock in the pocket. Aside from a dangerous, near intentional grounding throw away, he continues to often not see the pressure. In this game he was sacked four times.