The first half of Penn State football has come to an end with the Nittany Lions leading 10-3. There is a lot to be excited about, but it’s hard to not think about the missed opportunities so far.
Penn State was first on the board, as Zach Zwinak punched one in from a yard out to give the Nittany Lions a 7-0 lead with 8:20 left in the first quarter. This is really the only successful moment in the rushing game so far, as Penn State has only tallied three yards on the ground.
Christian Hackenberg looked every bit of the 2013 Big Ten Freshman of the Year we remember from last year. Despite feeling constant pressure from the UCF front seven, he was able to make some great throws. He ended the half going 17/26 for 218 yards and one interception.
The lack of Allen Robinson on the field for the Nittany Lions isn’t too much of a problem, as Hackenberg seems to have found his new safety blanket in redshirt freshman wide receiver DaeSean Hamilton. Hamilton has been all over the field in the first half with 6 receptions for 107 yards, including a 44 yard bomb to the UCF two yard line to set up Zwinak’s touchdown. Wide receiver Geno Lewis has been relatively quiet thus far despite all of the preseason hype, making only 3 receptions for 19 yards.
The tight end play has been solid, as Jesse James and Kyle Carter have been viable options for Hackenberg over the middle. Jesse James looks impressive, making a couple of circus catches in the seam. The offensive line has had a rocky start, but is slowly getting into a groove. Hackenberg has had to get creative in the pocket, with pressure constantly in his face. A few nice pockets here and there, but this unproven unit must bear down and keep the pressure off of Hackenberg going forward.
The Nittany Lion defense has been relentless in the first half, giving new UCF quarterback Pete DiNovo fits. The secondary has been air tight, keeping DiNovo in check with only eighteen yards on three completions. Deion Barnes is looking like the Deion Barnes of 2012, making plays in the backfield and getting some clean looks at the quarterback. A player to keep an eye on in the second half is defensive tackle Anthony Zettel, who bulked up and made the switch from defensive end. #98 is at the bottom of every pile, and has been very impressive so far.
- First downs: Penn State 13, UCF 3.
- Total yards: Penn State 221, UCF 35.
- Penalties: Penn State 5-56 yards, UCF 3-25 yards