Temple 27, Penn State 10: Owls dominant in first win over PSU since 1941


Christian Hackenberg sacked 10 times in Penn State’s 17-point loss to Temple

It was bound to happen some time, but that likely does not make it any easier to accept. Penn State had now lost to Temple since 1941 heading into the 2015 season opener in Philadelphia on Saturday, and now they have. It happened in spectacular fashion too. There was no doubt about it. Temple scored 27 unanswered points on its way to pulling away from Penn State, exploiting all of the major concerns the Nittany Lions will continue to have in 2015.

Things looked promising early for Penn State, which made the final result even more puzzling and frustrating. Penn State’s first possession of the game reached just inside the red zone but ultimately ended with just three points on the scoreboard off the leg of kicker Joe Julius from 34 yards. Later in quarter it was Akeel Lynch breaking through the line and down field on a 42-yard touchdown run to give Penn State a 10-0 lead in the first quarter. The offensive line seemed to be playing well, but it would not last.

Temple’s defense, which will be solid once again this season, had enough. The Owls got a bit more physical in the trenches and started to find the weak spots in Penn State’s still very questionable offensive line. Temple immediately started to bring pressure on Christian Hackenberg and started to get in his face a little more. All fo a sudden Temple gained some momentum and it carried over to the offense.Temple put together a 93-yard touchdown drive shortly before halftime to cut Penn State’s lead down to 10-7. Jahad Thomas capped the long drive with a short touchdown run. It was all Temple in the second half.

Temple tied things up midway through the third quarter with a 40-yard field goal from Austin Jones, and the Owls took their first lead of the game on a P.J. Walker touchdown run that came just two plays after the Owls intercepted a pass from Hackenberg and returned it to the Penn State two-yard line. It was at this point the reality of losing to Temple started to sink in. This might actually happen. Oh, it did, and the Owls proved to be the more physically prepared team in the fourth quarter.

Thomas rushed for his second touchdown of the game four minutes into the final quarter. It was a 24-yard run and it gave Temple a seemingly insurmountable 14-point edge. Temple would later tack on three more points with another field goal from Jones, giving Temple a 27-10 lead. Meanwhile, the Owls continued to hammer Hackenberg, who was sacked 10 times when all was said and done. Temple’s defensive leader, linebacker Tyler Matakevich, had three of them for his first career multi-sack game.

Hackenberg ended his afternoon having completed just 11 of his 25 pass attempts for 103 yards and no touchdowns. He was picked off the one time, but his decision-making once again left plenty of room for criticism at times. From not getting rid of the football to avoid a sack to just missing his receivers at times, Hackenberg did not live up to any preseason hype with regards to the NFL. Sometimes there were reasons for that though, as the offensive line continued to look like a turnstile. The blocking woes were not just on the offensive line though, as tight ends failed to block well and running backs struggled to pick up a defender as well. There was plenty of blame to go around on the field and on the sideline.

The box score more than tells the story. Nine first downs. 180 total yards of offense. Six penalties. Penn State’s offense held the football for just 23 minutes and 45 seconds. Penn State converted just two of its 13 third downs on the afternoon. That’s not good enough to beat most teams, especially a team like Temple that was prepared to give Penn State some serious trouble out of the gate, as I suggested over the summer.

Player of the Game: Tyler Matakevich, Temple LB

Matakevich recorded three sacks on Christian Hackenberg to pick up his first career multi-sack game. The leader of the Temple defense also set the tone on the sideline after Penn State put together two scoring drives on the Owls in the first quarter, inspiring Temple to lock down and regain control of things. It worked.

What Did We Learn

Penn State’s offensive line starts the season no better than we saw it end the 2014 regular season. Hackenberg getting sacked 10 times is flat out unacceptable across the board. Penn State’s success will rely on the offensive line being better than it was a year ago. It was only one game, but it was one with absolutely nothing encouraging to offer. Offensive line play was only one large chunk of the problem though. Playcalling was once again suspect from John Donovan, with plays designed to move the ball east and west before moving down field clearly having little impact once Temple caught on and figured out what was coming. Temple’s defense was too good for that kind of offensive strategy to work, and Penn State never moved away from it with the game slipping away.

Nyeem Wartman done for the year

As if things were not bad enough, Penn State linebacker Nyeem Wartman is done for the season after suffering a season-ending leg injury. Wartman was injured on special teams duty in the second quarter. Oof.

What’s Next?

Penn State will open the home schedule next week in Beaver Stadium against Buffalo. Kickoff is set for noon eastern on Big Ten Network. Buffalo si coming off a season-opening win against Albany, which saw the Bulls put 51 points on the board. Buffalo also scored at least 41 points in their final two games played in the 2014 season, so Penn State’s defense could have some work to do. Not as much as the offense though.

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