Hackenberg leads Penn State to 29-7 win over Indiana
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) Penn State planned on facing a quarterback who’d make plays with his feet on Saturday. Instead, the Nittany Lions’ own signal-caller burned Indiana with his legs – and his arm, too.
Christian Hackenberg threw for 262 yards, two touchdown passes and ran for two scores and Penn State beat the Hoosiers 29-7 at Beaver Stadium.
”It causes headaches,” Penn State coach James Franklin said. ”It’s a pain. You drop back, you’ve got everybody covered and now the quarterback is willing to pull it down and go get you a first down.”
Penn State (5-1, 2-0 Big Ten) was on the other side of that scenario last year when Indiana’s Zander Diamont extended drives with his legs, nearly leading the Hoosiers (4-2, 0-2 Big Ten) to an upset in Bloomington. But Diamont was ineffective this time around while Hackenberg found his rhythm down the field and with his feet.
Hackenberg was 21 of 39 and hit Brandon Polk and DaeSean Hamilton on 39-yard scoring strikes in the first half. He cut upfield for his longest career run – a 22-yard dash that powered a second-quarter drive – and turned a bootleg into a 1-yard touchdown run for a 19-7 halftime lead two plays later. Hackenberg added a 5-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter. Tyler Davis kicked a 30-yard field goal to cap the scoring.
Hackenberg’s fourth-quarter plunge – the 6-foot-4, 228-pounder shot up the middle, broke one tackle, then dove head first over safety Chase Dutra – was met with cheers and bear hugs on the sideline.
”Hack’s always got an edge,” running back Nick Scott said. ”I think he did a real good job of showing it today.”
He also showed off his arm strength and downfield accuracy which rounded into form after a few missed throws midway through the first quarter.
Usually used on sweep plays, Polk took off in motion and sprinted around the right side of Indiana’s defense where Hackenberg found him in stride down the sideline for a 7-0 lead in the first quarter.
Diamont, playing for injured starter Nate Sudfeld, led a quick response. He scrambled for 10 yards, completed back-to-back throws to Isaac Griffith for 31 more and cut his way through Penn State’s defense for a 12-yard touchdown run to cap an 8-play drive.
But Hackenberg extended the lead with another deep shot – he took six and hit two in the first half – when he found Hamilton in single coverage down the sideline to give Penn State a 13-7 lead. It tied him with Kerry Collins for 39 career touchdown passes. Kicker Joey Julius missed his first of two extra points.
”You can’t expect to go out when you’re throwing the ball more than 30 yards down the field, to go out and hit 70, 60 percent of them,” Hackenberg said. ”If you luck out, 35, 40 percent, you’re pretty happy because that usually leads to big plays, big chunk yards or touchdowns. Today, we were able to do that.”
Diamont also threw downfield early but wasn’t able to beat a Penn State defense that forced six 3-and-outs and notched four sacks. Diamont completed just 9 of 17 passes for 90 yards before he was injured and replaced by third-stringer Danny Cameron in the third quarter.
Cameron didn’t fare any better against Penn State’s defense. Penn State freshman cornerback John Reid intercepted Cameron’s first pass of the fourth quarter and Hackenberg scored his 5-yard touchdown run seven plays later. It pushed Penn State’s total to 30 points off of seven turnovers over the last three games.
Senior defensive end Carl Nassib finished with two sacks. Austin Johnson and Garrett Sickels also had a sack each and Penn State made seven tackles for loss to help slow down Indiana’s up-tempo offense.
”That’s what we needed to do to,” Johnson said. ”We didn’t have to worry about (Cameron) running as much, so that kind of helped us.”