EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Things went from bad to great to awful to hallelujah for Penn State in the second quarter.
Nothing was falling in the Nittany Lions’ favor for the first quarter and half of the second against Syracuse at MetLife Stadium. Wideout Allen Robinson didn’t play for unknown reasons, tight end Matt Lehman was carted off the field after an apparent leg injury, and quarterback Tyler Ferguson fumbled under no clear pressure on his second snap. At least true freshman quarterback Christian Hackenberg was playing well in first collegiate start.
Then, within just a few game minutes, Penn State’s Carl Nassib tackled the punter on fourth down, Hackenberg promptly threw a pick, Stephen Obeng-Agyapong recovered a fumble, Sam Ficken faked a field goal, and, finally, kicked a real one.
All that happened, and the half ended in a surprising 6-3 Penn State lead.
Aside from the interception, Hackenberg handled himself with the cool demeanor only a true freshman quarterback playing his first collegiate game in an NFL stadium could. In his opening drive, he converted a play action on fourth down deep in his own territory. When he couldn’t find the endzone, he punted the ball himself.
Hackenberg completed 11 of 15 pass attempts, throwing one pick, taking one sack and punting once.
- Linebacker Mike Hull briefly left the field after an injury in the first quarter, but soon returned. With the Lions linebacking depth issues, Hull’s return saves the coaching staff and the team a lot of stress.
- Adam Breneman broke onto Penn State’s stat sheet with one tackle on punt coverage. He did not reel in a reception.
- On a halftime TV interview with ESPN, O’Brien said Robinson would play in the second half.