Penn State had its best offensive game of the year on Saturday against a Purdue team that falls to 1-9 on the year. The Nittany Lions ran for 289 yards and five touchdowns in a 45-21 win over Purdue that was not as close as the score indicated.
Here’s what we can take away from the win.
Jordan Lucas is the “Most Improved Player” to date.
Cornerback Jordan Lucas was criticized often for his play earlier in the year, struggling against teams with strong passing attacks such as UCF and Indiana. When he caught his first interception of the year against Michigan, however, his season turned around.
Lucas has transformed his game and is now one of the most consistent, and confident, players on the defensive side. Lucas tallied 3 tackles, 2 pass break-ups, and this interception, which was the first big turning point in the game for the Nittany Lions. Lucas is still young, and his inexperience and youth still shows at times. With both Lucas and Adrian Amos returning as cornerback next year, however, the Penn State secondary should be a strength for the foreseeable future.
Hackenberg is maturing.
Quarterback Christian Hackenberg had a solid day against the Boilermakers, throwing for 212 yards and a touchdown on 16-of-23 passing. What stuck out most in the 45-21 win, however, was the decision-making and execution by the freshman. Hackenberg did throw an interception, ending a streak of 90 straight passes without one, but there were many more positive plays made than negative.
On the first drive of the third quarter, Penn State faced a 3rd-and-6 from Purdue’s 12 yard line. Instead of trying to force the ball into the hands of a blanketed Brandon Felder, Hackenberg threw the ball away and gave Sam Ficken the opportunity to kick a 29 yard field goal that put the Nittany Lions up by ten points. A play like that may show up as just an incomplete pass on the stat sheet, but it also proves Hackenberg’s maturity and understanding of the game are improving.
Enjoy Allen Robinson while you can.
Allen Robinson had another solid day, catching 8 passes for 98 yards. Most impressively, he broke his own record for receptions in a single season, making him the only receiver in Penn State history to record an 80-reception season. He also set the single-season yards record last week against Minnesota.
Is Robinson the best receiver in Penn State history? That is a debate for another day. But as this season comes to a close with two games vs. Nebraska and Wisconsin, Penn State fans should take the time to enjoy watching Robinson in the blue and white. The junior is eligible for the NFL after the season concludes, and next week may be his last game in Beaver Stadium.
Sam Ficken is back.
Ficken hit a midseason slump during games against Indiana, Michigan, and Illinois, missing four field goals during that stretch. The kicker has turned it around during the past two games, going a perfect 2-for-2 on field goals and 7-for-7 on extra points. It wasn’t much to worry about, but it’s good to see Ficken turn back into Mr. Automatic after struggling to start conference play.