Northwestern Spoils Penn State’s Homecoming, 29-6
Despite unseasonably warm weather and a cloudless sky, it was not a pretty day in Beaver Stadium. The Northwestern Wildcats, whose lone win had come over Western Illinois, trampled Penn State to the tune of a 29-6 loss, ruining the Nittany Lions’ Homecoming.
How it happened:
A week after it mustered 48 points and 228 rushing yards, Penn State could find neither the end zone nor a first down for much of the game.
Overmatched in the trenches, the offensive line was consistently pushed back. Quarterback Christian Hackenberg was sacked four times and the Wildcats had nine tackles for losses. Penn State rushed for only 50 yards on 25 attempts, picking up an abysmal 2.0 yards per carry.
Northwestern stormed out the gates in the first quarter with a pair of one-yard touchdown scrambles by quarterback Trevor Siemian in the first 11 minutes.
Penn State’s first first down came on the last play of the first quarter, a 15-yard connection to tight end Jesse James, but the pass didn’t light a fire under the offense as it continued to struggle through the second quarter.
Sam Ficken’s field goal with five seconds remaining in the half were the only points for Penn State heading into the locker room for the break. A second Ficken field goal, this time four minutes into the third quarter, brought Penn State within a possession, 14-6.
Six plays later, Adrian Amos intercepted Siemian at Penn State’s 10-yard line. On second down, Hackenberg found Hamilton for nine yards. The crowd was back in it, the self-doubt was vanishing.
Hamilton had six receptions for 100 yards on the day.
But the drive stalled. A fourth-and-two pass from Northwestern’s 35 could not find Geno Lewis.
And that’s when an ugly game turned worse.
On 3rd-and-11 from the Wildcats’ 47, Hackenberg scrambled to the left sideline, where he was met by Mathew Harris. The two collided head-on and Harris crumpled backwards. He laid motionless for several minutes as a stretcher stabilized him.
An eerily quiet Beaver Stadium erupted in a roar as he gave a thumbs up when carted off the field. The injury sucked the momentum out of the game, and Penn State never recovered.
The next time the Lions received the ball, still down 14-6, Hackenberg threw an interception that was returned 49 yards for a touchdown.
A field goal and another one-yard Siemian touchdown plow, his third of the game, followed. The crowd thinned and the game was lost.
Player of the game:
It certainly wasn’t anyone on the offense.
Mike Hull had a career-high 16 tackles, including 10 in the first half. It’s the third time he’s had at least 10 tackles in a game this season.
On a fourth down in the first quarter, Hull sniffed out a fake field goal, and delivered a huge hit short of the goal line, forcing a turnover on downs. The play seemed to give Penn State some momentum, if only for a limited time.
Quote of the game:
James Franklin, who suffered his first loss as Penn State’s head coach, remained confident and forceful in his post game remarks. He also put the blame on himself, saying its up to him and his coaching staff to amend the issues.
“We will get this fixed. I promise you and guarantee you that,” he said.
With linebacker Nyeem Wartman injured and inactive, Jason Cabinda became the eighth true freshman to play for Penn State this season. The 248-pound linebacker recorded eight tackles, the second most on the team.
Tight end Mike Gesicki reeled in one catch for six yards. Saeed Blacknall also had one reception for five yards.
Penn State enters a bye week, before traveling to Michigan.
“The bye week couldn’t have come at a better time,” said Franklin.