Penn State wins ugly vs. Army
Final: Penn State 20, Army 14
Telling stat: 20 total passing attempts in the game
In rainy conditions, this one wasn’t going to be decided in the passing game. Add to the fact that the Lions have been a run-first team to begin with and Army’s triple-option offense rarely involves passing, and it was the perfect scenario for smash-mouth football. I don’t know if that game qualifies as the smash-mouth football we saw in Madison, but it was still a game that was going to come down to running backs moving the chains. For the record, Army completed its only official passing attempt for 32 yards. But the Lions are too experienced to struggle against a one-dimensional offense. Jason Cabinda,
Key play: Hackenberg 33-yard TD pass to Mike Gesicki
The Lions needed Hackenberg to step up and deliver with the offense clearly struggling. The junior signal-caller delivered. He connected with Gesicki on the left side for a 33-yard score, giving him his first career touchdown. Even better, it was on Gesicki’s birthday. That play gave the Lions some needed breathing room. Credit Chris Godwin for stepping up with a key 49-yard diving catch to set up the 33-yard score. The 91-yard drive couldn’t have come at a better time. By the way, that was the longest touchdown pass of the season for Hackenberg.
-Nick Scott scored first career rushing TD
Without Saquon Barkley and Akeel Lynch, Penn State had serious questions to answer in the running game. Scott didn’t replace that production, but he picked a good time for his first career rushing score. He capped off a 42-yard drive that was night and day compared to the mess the Lions looked like on their first drive of the game. It was also after one of seven Army fumbles, which helped Penn State get some needed short fields. He only got 12 carries and had 54 yards in limited action. If Barkley and Lynch are to miss any more time, that’ll need to increase.
-Carl Nassib gets sack against triple option
You knew it was going to be awfully tough for the nation’s leader in sacks to add to his total against a triple option offense. Still, Nassib managed to get into the sack column on one of just a handful of drop backs. The former walk-on flashed why James Franklin had been hyping this guy all offseason. There might not be a more dangerous pass-rusher coming off the edge in the B1G right now. Playing alongside Austin Johnson and Anthony Zettel, that’s a scary thought.
What it means: Penn State loves winning ugly
Call it a letdown to see the Lions struggle to distance themselves from a team it was favored to beat by 23 points. Given the conditions and Penn State’s injured tailbacks, we probably should’ve expected an outcome like that. It’s the fourth win in a row for Penn State, but we still don’t know if this team will be able to play like that against the loaded B1G East. For now, it’ll work.