JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Oh, yeah, Penn State actually played a game here Saturday. Though the 24-17 TaxSlayer Bowl loss was kind of overshadowed by the postgame announcement that QB Christian Hackenberg and DT Austin Johnson are bolting for the NFL, we still have to kick around what went down at EverBank Field.
Here is our take.
MAN OF THE HOUR: In case you did not notice, WR Chris Godwin is really good. He went over 1,000 yards receiving for the season thanks to six catches for 133 yards in this one.
CLOSE SECOND: After replacing the injured Hackenberg, backup QB Trace McSorley was a bit unsteady early. But he eventually found a groove and helped rally the Lions from a 24-3 deficit. The redshirt freshman was good on 14 of 27 passes for 142 yards and two scores.
CLOSE THIRD: LB Brandon Bell was all over the field, with 11 tackles and a sack.
TURNING POINT: Even with Hackenberg out, PSU trailed only 10-3 late in the first half. But then Georgia ran back-to-back fades from Greyson Lambert to Terry Godwin. The first was long. But the second resulted in a 17-yard score and 17-3 lead. The Lions looked deflated heading into the locker room.
SOLID STRATEGY: Georgia interim coach Bryan McClendon wisely limited his passing game to 23 attempts. Lambert and backup Brice Ramsey both looked shaky, and were fortunate the Lions dropped a couple of should-have-been picks.
NUMBERS GAME: Penn State finished with 407 total yards to the Bulldogs’ 327. The Lions ran more plays (74 to 64) and averaged more yards per play (5.4 to 5.1). But they were 4 of 18 on third down. Ouch.
BUSINESS AS USUAL: The PSU defense had nine more tackles for loss.
WHAT'S UP WITH?
• Interim offensive coordinator Ricky Rahne running a bunch of slow-developing draws that allowed UGA to get to RB Saquon Barkley more quickly.
• Penn State’s crazy clock management. Man, this team burned a lot of timeouts for no good reason this season.
• The Nittany Lions struggling kickoff team. The staff called a pooch because it saw a Georgia formation it liked, and K Joey Julius powered the ball straight out of bounds.
• As noted, PSU dropping some possible interceptions. S Troy Apke had the cleanest shot at a pick but could not hold on.
• The near complete disappearance of the TE from the PSU offense. The position produced one catch for three yards in this one (by senior Kyle Carter).
LOST IN THE SHUFFLE: McSorley also ran seven times for 31 yards. Might not seem like much. But he led the team in yards per carry (4.4).
DID YOU NOTICE?
• OLB Troy Reeder was on crutches with an undisclosed injury. True freshman Jake Cooper started in his place and had six tackles.
• Often injured tight end Adam Breneman dressed but did not play.
• Derek Dowrey saw action as a backup at both guard spots.
UNANSWERED QUESTION: Will the ugliness of the loss or the positives in the rally stick with this team longer into the off-season?