NCAA FB

Hackenberg, Penn St tops Eastern Michigan, 45-7

Share This Story

   
 

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP)

With one fumble recovery, Eastern Michigan had a touchdown and a lead.

The Eagles' defense found the end zone more than their offense - and that's no recipe to pull off an upset.

Christian Hackenberg threw for 311 yards and a touchdown, and Zach Zwinak and Bill Belton each ran for a pair of scores, leading Penn State past Eastern Michigan 45-7 on Saturday.

Hackenberg followed up a strong debut with another promising effort. The 18-year-old just needed time to get going. Hit with some home-field nerves, he wildly overthrew his first few attempts, and lost a fumble that was recovered by linebacker Hunter Matt for an 11-yard score.

''It boosts your confidence,'' Eagles safety Mycal Swaim said. ''We were really excited. We were pumped up when that happened. It's always good when you get a defensive score. It takes a little pressure off the offense so hopefully they can build some momentum.''

Not against this Nittany Lions defense.

All the while, Eastern Michigan's offense could do little against Penn State. A few early marches into Nittany Lions territory came up empty and the Eagles, out of the Mid-American Conference, were flat in the second half. They mustered only 7 total yards in the third quarter.

''I think we lost some momentum there in the third quarter,'' Eagles coach Ron English said.

EMU's Tyreese Russell was one of few bright spots, hauling in eight catches for 73 yards.

But once Hackenberg beat his nerves, Eastern Michigan never stood a chance.

Hackenberg went 23 of 33 and overcame a shaky first couple of series to lead Penn State (2-0) to a win in its home opener. He connected with Allen Robinson for a 45-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter that helped put the game away. He set a Penn State single-game mark for yards passing by a freshman.

And he made a big impression on fans needing a reason to back the program.

''There's a big, big difference than walking in there empty,'' Hackenberg said. ''They try to simulate it with some noise. Nothing compares.''

After the running game stumbled in the season opener vs. Syracuse, Zwinak broke through for a pair of short scores. Belton added a 51-yard touchdown run in the fourth and had 108 yards rushing. Akeel Lynch added a 27-yard scamper in the fourth and also had 108 yards rushing.

Penn State's Sam Ficken set a school record with his 14th straight field goal, a 39-yarder that closed the first half.

Hackenberg started 0 for 3, and was 1 for 5. He was sacked and fumbled. Then he turned his game around.

Hackenberg hit Robinson, who had 129 yards receiving, for a 43-yard gain down to the 8-yard line. Zwinak carried a couple of defenders on him as he stormed into the end zone for a 2-yard run that tied the game at 7.

Lost in the excitement of Hackenberg's debut last week, was a backfield performance that had coach Bill O'Brien taking blame for the poor effort. No need for apologies after this one.

Zwinak had a 20-yard run in the third, then scored two plays later on a 7-yard burst for a 24-7 lead.

Belton had a 5-yard scoring run in the second, then charged into the end zone with an open field 51-yard burst down the middle that put the Nittany Lions' faithful on their feet.

Led by Belton and Lynch, Penn State powered its way to 251 yards rushing.

''It took a little while to get it going,'' O'Brien said, ''but it was nice to see 'em get it going.''

Penn State announced more than 92,000 fans were at Beaver Stadium, though it was far from full and there were scores of empty sections in the upper levels. O'Brien had stumped around the state asking fans to continue to support the program and fill the stadium every Saturday during this period of transition for the Nittany Lions.

But the crowd is still large enough to awe a freshman QB - at least, for a few series.

''You could take 5,000 recruiting trips here,'' O'Brien said, ''but it ain't like playing here. I thought he was amped up.''

Not even the return of the 1973 undefeated team could spark a full house. Penn State honored more than 50 members of the squad that capped a perfect 12-0 season with an Orange Bowl win against LSU but failed to win the national championship.

There was a huge ovation for John Cappelletti, the 1973 Heisman Trophy winner. In a surprise move, Penn State retired his No. 22. He talked to the team in the Penn State locker room after the victory.

Missing, of course, was former coach Joe Paterno. Paterno, who died in 2012, still looms large in Happy Valley. An electronic billboard on the way to town flashed ''409 Forever,'' in honor of his win total.

In his second season, O'Brien seems to have won over the die-hards, even though not all of them showed up Saturday. He was greeted to a rousing ovation from fans who lined the entrance to the stadium. He popped off the team bus thrusting his fists and pointing at the early risers who came out to greet the team.

And the result in his second home opener was much different than a disheartening loss to another MAC team, Ohio, last year on Labor Day weekend.

Ficken went 3 for 3 last week and kicked one more field goal against the Eagles to set the Nittany Lions record.

Tagged: Michigan, Penn State, Eastern Michigan, Zach Zwinak, Bill O'Brien, Bill Belton

Related Stories

Member Comments

Please note by clicking on "Post comment" you acknowledge that you have read the Terms of Use and the comment you are posting is in compliance with such terms. Be Polite. Inappropriate posts may be removed by the moderator.

powered by

College Football Pick'em on FOX


NCAA FB Videos

Sumlin annoyed by media's Manziel questions Posted: Jul 16, 2014
Kevin Sumlin responds to questions about life after Johnny Football by toying wi...

AJ Pasquale's journey back to UCLA Posted: Jun 17, 2014
UCLA football ops intern AJ Pasquale describes his own personal journey after th...

Winston issued adult civil citation Posted: Apr 30, 2014
Get the latest news surrounding Jameis Winston's recent shoplifting fiasco.

Get Inside the Locker Room with Scout.com

Fox Sports Store

    itemName itemURL imageSrc price itemDescription
    Nike Florida Gators Gridiron 2012 Team Issue T-Shirt - Royal Blue http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Florida_Gators/browse/featuredproduct/759777/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_759000/ff_759777_xl.jpg&w=100 24.95 Nike Florida Gators Gridiron 2012 Team Issue T-Shirt - Royal Blue
    Nike Michigan State Spartans Football 2012 Team Issue T-Shirt - White http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Michigan_State_Spartans/browse/featuredproduct/760171/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_760000/ff_760171_xl.jpg&w=100 24.95 Nike Michigan State Spartans Football 2012 Team Issue T-Shirt - White
    Nike USC Trojans Fight On My School T-Shirt - Cardinal http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_USC_Trojans/browse/featuredproduct/761373/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_761000/ff_761373_xl.jpg&w=100 24.95 Nike USC Trojans Fight On My School T-Shirt - Cardinal
    Nike Alabama Crimson Tide Elite Force Coaches Sideline Performance Polo - Crimson http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Alabama_Crimson_Tide/browse/featuredproduct/829709/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_829000/ff_829709_xl.jpg&w=100 64.95 Nike Alabama Crimson Tide Elite Force Coaches Sideline Performance Polo - Crimso..
    Nike LSU Tigers Elite Force Coaches Sideline Performance Polo - Purple http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_LSU_Tigers/browse/featuredproduct/829740/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_829000/ff_829740_xl.jpg&w=100 49.99 Nike LSU Tigers Elite Force Coaches Sideline Performance Polo - Purple
    Nike Oklahoma Sooners Legacy 91 Dri-FIT Adjustable Coaches Cap - Crimson http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Oklahoma_Sooners/browse/featuredproduct/830935/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_830000/ff_830935_xl.jpg&w=100 21.95 Nike Oklahoma Sooners Legacy 91 Dri-FIT Adjustable Coaches Cap - Crimson
    adidas Notre Dame Fighting Irish Hot Sideline Jacket - Navy Blue http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Notre_Dame_Fighting_Irish/browse/featuredproduct/861243/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_861000/ff_861243_xl.jpg&w=100 69.95 adidas Notre Dame Fighting Irish Hot Sideline Jacket - Navy Blue
    adidas Nebraska Cornhuskers Sideline Hot Quarter Zip Jacket - Scarlet http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Nebraska_Cornhuskers/browse/featuredproduct/861247/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_861000/ff_861247_xl.jpg&w=100 69.95 adidas Nebraska Cornhuskers Sideline Hot Quarter Zip Jacket - Scarlet
    Nike Alabama Crimson Tide 2012 BCS National Champions Players Locker Room Snapback Hat - Charcoal/Black http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Alabama_Crimson_Tide/browse/featuredproduct/1087345/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_1087000/ff_1087345_xl.jpg&w=100 29.95 Nike Alabama Crimson Tide 2012 BCS National Champions Players Locker Room Snapba..
    Nike Alabama Crimson Tide 2012 BCS National Champions Locker Room T-Shirt - Ash http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Alabama_Crimson_Tide/browse/featuredproduct/1093431/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_1093000/ff_1093431_xl.jpg&w=100 24.95 Nike Alabama Crimson Tide 2012 BCS National Champions Locker Room T-Shirt - Ash