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Freshman QB Hackenberg shines in Penn State win

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The Penn State football team used a balanced offensive attack and superb defense to post a 45-7 win over Eastern Michigan at Beaver Stadium. With the undefeated 1973 team and Heisman Trophy winner John Cappelletti in attendance, the Nittany Lions landed a pair of 100-yard rushers against the Eagles in Bill Belton (Sicklerville, N.J.) and Akeel Lynch (Toronto, Ontario).

The running tandem marks the first time since 2010 that Penn State has had a pair of 100-yard rushers in a game when Evan Royster (134) and Silas Redd (131) accomplished the feat against Northwestern. Belton carried the ball nine times en route to 108 yards and a pair of touchdowns. It is the second time in his career that Belton found the end zone multiple times in a game, joining his three-touchdown performance at Iowa on Oct. 20, 2010. Lynch, who had his first collegiate carry today, also ran for 108 yards and a touchdown. Additionally, Zach Zwinak (Frederick, Md.) ran for 43 yards and a pair of scores as the Nittany Lions ran for 251 yards. This is his third career game with multiple touchdowns (Illinois & Indiana).

True freshman quarterback Christian Hackenberg (Palmyra, Va.) broke the Penn State freshman single-game passing record, going 23-33 for 311 yards with one touchdown and one interception. He found 10 different receivers at the end of his passes, but his favorite target was Allen Robinson (Southfield, Mich.), who had seven catches for 129 yards and a touchdown. With his touchdown reception, Robinson moves into a tie for eighth on Penn State career receiving TDs list with Jordan Norwood. It is the fourth 100-yard performance of Robinson’s career and his second of the season. This is the second-straight week that Hackenberg and Robinson have combined for more than 100 yards.

The Penn State defense was stellar on the day, allowing 183 total yards. Glenn Carson (Manahawkin, N.J.) registered 10 tackles with a half-sack. DaQuan Jones (Johnson City, N.Y.) added nine tackles, including two for a loss, and a sack. After allowing a 10-play, 50-yard drive to open the second quarter, the Nittany Lion defense did not allow a drive of more than 24 yards for the remainder of the day. Penn State ended strong, registering five three-and-outs in its last seven defensive possessions.

Defense was the name of the game early, on its second possession Eastern Michigan took over in prime position on the Penn State 36. However the Nittany Lion defense held strong thanks to a pair of tackles by Jones, including one for a two-yard loss. On the ensuing 45-yard field goal attempt, the Eagles muffed the snap and Jordan Lucas (New Rochelle, N.Y.) secured the eight-yard loss with a solid tackle and ended the scoring threat with eight minutes remaining.

With 4:01 remaining in the first quarter, Hackenberg fumbled and Eastern Michigan’s Matt Hunter scooped up the ball and returned it 11 yards to give the Eagles a 7-0 lead. On the ensuing possession, Penn State responded in strong fashion. After two short runs by Zwinak and a nine-yard gain on a pass from Hackenberg to Robinson, the pair hooked up again for a 43-yard gain to put the Lions in the red zone on the eight-yard line. Following a three-yard run by Zwinak and a three-yard penalty on EMU, Zwinak churned out a hard-fought two-yard touchdown run to even the game at 7-7 with 1:41 left in the first quarter.

Following another defensive stop, the Nittany Lions put together another solid drive that was capped off by the five-yard run by Belton to make it a 14-7 Penn State lead less than a minute into the second quarter. Penn State tallied three plays during the drive of 10 or more yards, including a 17-yard reception for Matt Zanellato (Burke, Va.), a 27-yard catch for Jesse James (Glassport, Pa.) and a 15-yard run for Belton.

The Nittany Lions took over on their own 12-yard line with 2:12 remaining in the second quarter and put together a solid drive that saw Hackenberg find four different receivers as he went 5-for-6 for 67 yards. Penn State would retreat with a pair of holding penalties, setting the stage for Ficken to come on and hit a 39-yard field goal to extend his consecutive field goals made streak to 14 games, breaking the school record set by Craig Fayak during the 1992 season. The Lions went into halftime with a 17-7 lead.

The undefeated 1973 team was honored at halftime, led by Heisman Trophy winner John Cappelletti. As part of the celebration of the 40 years since his Heisman Trophy win, Cappelletti’s #22 jersey was retired, becoming the first jersey in Penn State history to ever be retired. Current Nittany Lion Akeel Lynch will be the last Penn State player to wear the #22 jersey. Per Cappelletti’s request, Lynch will be allowed to wear the number through the end of his collegiate career.

The opening of the second half was similar to the start of the game with neither team able to sustain offensive momentum. On their fourth possession of the third quarter, the Nittany Lions started on the EMU 33 and were able to use a 15-yard run by Hackenberg and a 20-yard run to key the drive that ended with Zwinak’s seven-yard scamper for his second touchdown of the game and a 24-7 Penn State lead with 2:09 left in the third quarter.

After another outstanding defensive series, the Lions kept the offense rolling with another solid drive that was capped by a 45-yard touchdown pass from Hackenberg to Robinson to give PSU a 31-7 leave with 12:25 left in the game. The touchdown was the 13th of Robinson’s career, tying him for eighth on Penn State’s career list. Lynch was a workhorse for the Lions on the drive, rushing for 29 yards on four carries.

The Penn State defense forced another three-and-out, which led to another touchdown drive for the Lions. Belton carried the first two downs of the drive for 13 yards and following a 19-yard reception by James, Belton found paydirt with a 51-yard touchdown run to make it 38-7 with less than 10 minutes to play. On the Lions’ next offensive series, Lynch was again the centerpiece with 65 yards on five carries, including an 18-yard touchdown run for the first of his career.

The Nittany Lions are back in action against Central Florida next Saturday at 6 p.m. at Beaver Stadium. The game will be the first-ever night home game televised by the Big Ten Network in Beaver Stadium.

Penn State football season and single tickets are available. Ticket purchases and information is available at http://www.GoPSUsports.com/tickets or fans can call 1-800-NITTANY (648-8269) weekdays from 8:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m. Pre-paid single game parking passes for the general parking lots are also available at http://www.GoPSUsports.com/tickets.

Article courtesy of PSU Athletics.