SYRACUSE: The High Five

Christian Hackenberg

Act Two of the O'Brien Era had an exciting storyline with true freshman Christian Hackenberg taking the reigns of the Nittany Lion offense against Syracuse. See the game's highs and lows here.

In 71 meetings Penn State had never met Syracuse in their season opener. And with a victory drought against the Nittany Lions since 1988, the Orange was hoping facing a true freshman in Christian Hackenberg would give them an edge. In a game that ended up as a 23-17 PSU victory, here's a look at the highs and lows:

THE HIGH FIVE

Young Gun: Expectations were, in some cases unreasonably, high for Hackenberg's debut under center. He had moments where he looked the true freshman part, with two interceptions, but also had moments of brilliance, tossing for 278 yards and two touchdowns. The biggest high here was his ability to keep his poise as things went bumpy with the game.

Inside Job: DT DaQuan Jones had a monster game and career day, leading the PSU defense with nine tackles (eight solo), three tackles for loss and a sack. He was more than a handful for the Syracuse offensive line to handle and kept the Orange offense on edge most of the day.

Catching On: WR Allen Robinson was benched to start the game, but put in a full day's work after appearing in the second half. His seven catches for 133 yards and a touchdown were huge for the PSU passing game and good enough for him to be listed among four impact players of the day by ESPN. A full game from him may have been an all-out nightmare for Syracuse.

Take Down: On the whole Penn State's defense contained Syracuse to 260 total yards and contained their air attack to 16 for 37 and 189 yards. They also stopped Syracuse 14 times on 20 attempts on third down.

Passing Lane: The passing game continued its trend of passing the ball around from last season. Eight different targets pulled in balls for an impressife 296 yards through the air. Aside from Robinson, Eugene Lewis grabbed 62 yards in passing (including a 54 yarder) and Brandon Felder had 40 yards in receiving on six catches.

BONUS HIGH:

Kick It: Shout out to Sam Ficken, who went three for three on field goals (including a career long 46-yard hit), two for two on extra points and hit four touchbacks on six kickoffs. A huge turnaround from a year ago.

THE LOW FIVE

Stall Out: Penn State's ground game was at best inconsistent. Granted, Syracuse stuffed the box to clog up running lanes, but 57 net yards on 38 carries placed added pressure in the passing game. Zach Zwinak led the charge with 24 carries for 61 yards. Behind him Bill Belton managed on 19 yards on six runs. The Lions had hirrid two net rushing yards in the second half.

Wrap Up: At times PSU's tackling was atrocious, with high hits and a complete lack of wraps. No doubt Coach Butler and the D staff will be running extra take down drills to address the issue.

Third Turd: Penn State's offense converted one of 16 third down attempts, which obviously needs to get better as the season and competition progresses. It's expected to have issues out of the gate with a fresh face at QB, but third down is a big focus for O'Brien's offense, so improvements are required here.

Grounded: An obvious absence from PSU's air attack was tight end Kyle Carter who did not catch a pass on the day. He had single coverage much of the day, but he and Hackenberg simply could not connect. I'd expect that to change in short order.

Unforced Error: Tyler Ferguson's unforced fumble was a big opportunity for Syracuse and a head-scratcher for PSU fans. Fortunately, PSU managed to get past the error, but it was the end of Ferguson's day.

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