Hackenberg delivers for short-handed Lions
Final: Penn State 29, Indiana 7
Key play: Christian Hackenberg TD pass to DaeSean Hamilton
The B1G’s leader in receptions had been quiet all year. On Saturday, he scored on Penn State’s prettiest play of the day. Hackenberg hit a streaking Hamilton in stride on a play-action for a 39-yard score to give the Lions a lead they wouldn’t relinquish. Hackenberg looked comfortable throwing downfield to his former go-to guy on Saturday. For Penn State to rise above mediocrity, that duo needs more big plays like that.
Telling stat: Hackenberg accounts for all four touchdowns
That’s the best we’ve seen the Penn State quarterback all year. He had swagger we haven’t seen from him yet. He stepped up and had two rushing scores, one of which he could’ve had an easy touchdown pass to his tight end, but he elected to keep it. He made perfect throws on both of his TD passes and looked every bit like the top prospect many believe he can be. It didn’t rattle Hackenberg when he got sacked by the likes of Zack Shaw and Nick Mangeiri. He never appeared rattled. His eyes were downfield and he came up big to give the Lions a needed laugher.
-Diamont knocked out of game in second half
IU was up against it to begin with playing without Nate Sudfeld and Jordan Howard. That only worsened when Zander Diamont went down with a head injury in the third quarter. That left it up to redshirt freshman Danny Cameron to run the show. That’s a tough spot to put a first-year player in against a defense like that. The Lions defense got after him and didn’t allow a point when he came in. That’s exactly what Penn State needed to do against a depleted IU offense. Carl Nassib has to be a freshman quarterback’s worst nightmare. He had two more sacks, by the way, which gave him 10 on the season. That’s the highest total for a Penn State player in 10 years. Not too shabby.
-Penn State offense functioned without top tailbacks
The Lions looked like they were going to have a rough go offensively playing without the likes of Saquon Barkley and Akeel Lynch. Instead, Hackenberg did the heavy lifting. Nick Scott and Mark Allen only had eight carries apiece, but both were effective with limited work. Still, we were under the impression that the Lions could only win by pounding the ball, limiting Hackenberg’s throws and letting the defense go to work. Instead, no tailback had double-digit carries and Hackenberg threw the ball 39 times.
What it means: Lions are a threat, IU banged up
Penn State’s offense has shown both the passing game and the running game can take over. Now it’s just a matter of getting both to deliver on the same day. For that to happen against No. 1 Ohio State next week, the Lions need to get Barkley and Lynch back. Speaking of health issues, IU has far too many at key positions right now. IU’s offense was night-and-day without Sudfeld and Howard. Diamont is too one-dimensional for IU to win games in the B1G. For what it’s worth, Sudfeld and Howard were both suited up on Saturday but neither played. Barring a setback, they should be back next week. They better be.