BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- It was a sloppy and inconsistent offensive showing for Penn State Saturday, as the Nittany Lions dropped their Big Ten opener to Indiana, 44-24.
Coach Bill O’Brien said after the game that he and his staff had coached “average,” and it felt like much of the offense’s performance could be described in the same way.
Here’s our grades for the Penn State offense:
True freshman Christian Hackenberg responded with an “I don’t know” when asked Saturday if he’s regressed as a player since the beginning of the season. The 18-year-old started off stellar in the first three games, and while he had what many would consider a bad game today, the numbers were still there. The signal caller went 30-for-55 and logged 331 yards on the day. So while Penn State’s major offensive problem was that it couldn’t generate a rushing attack, Hackenberg listened to his coach and fired off a school record in passing attempts. But the quarterback’s age was on display after a number of bad checks and poor decisions. He threw into tight coverage at least five times, coming close to tossing several interceptions.
Despite the Lions’ inability to generate a rushing attack today against what was previously the worst run defense in the conference, the running backs don’t get a bad grade. Penn State posted 101 rushing yards on 37 attempts combined – these athletes didn’t get the opportunity to display their talent. With Hackenberg attempting 55 passes, the running game took a backseat to the passing one. Zach Zwinak led the unit with 72 yards on 17 carries, while Bill Belton logged 31 yards on 10 attempts.
Allen Robinson’s stock continues to rise as observers realize the Nittany Lions may not find a consistent second receiving option to the star athlete. Robinson accounted for half of Hackenberg’s passing yards, catching for 173 yards on 12 catches, meanwhile recording two touchdowns. The next-best option to him is nonexistent. Tight end Kyle Carter has been inconsistent all year, his best game coming today, catching six passes for 79 yards. After him, redshirt freshman Eugene Lewis grabbed six tosses for 35. Hackenberg needs another reliable weapon.
Like the rest of Penn State’s sluggish offense, the line didn’t play up to expectations today, but also didn’t make game-changing errors. As has been the anthem, Penn State couldn’t get a rushing attack going, but that can be attributed more to play-calling and less to offensive line performance. Guard Miles Dieffenbach said it best after the game. He said: “If we were playing up to our expectations, we would be 5-0.”
Anna Orso can be reached at email@example.com or 814-865-1828. Follow her on Twitter at @anna_orso.