Saturday, August 1, 2015

Week Two: Eastern Michigan vs. Penn State preview

Storyline and predictions for Penn State's second game against Eastern Michigan.

Week Two: Eastern Michigan vs. Penn State preview

Penn State quarterback Christian Hackenberg. (Bill Kostroun/AP file photo)
Penn State quarterback Christian Hackenberg. (Bill Kostroun/AP file photo)

Location: Beaver Stadium in University Park, PA

Time: 12:00 p.m.

Forecast: Sunny, 69 degrees 


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Christian Hackenberg likely won’t relinquish the offense’s third drive to Tyler Ferguson this weekend. The true freshman quarterback has cemented himself as Penn State’s signal caller after opening his collegiate career with a promising performance against Syracuse. Hackenberg suffered his rookie growing pains, but his pinpoint touchdown pass to Eugene Lewis last Saturday encapsulated the Palymra, Va. native’s inherent poise under center. Hackenberg, 18, is still just a kid in many of the Penn State players’ and coaches’ minds — a kid who will be tracked down by many behemoth pass rushers who could play in the NFL next season. Still, he quickly showed the pocket belonged to him, completing 22 passes for 278 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Today’s environment is even more conducive to Hackenberg’s increasing success, as the young quarterback will play his first game in Beaver Stadium against a defense that should be more manageable than Syracuse’s. 

This time last year, Penn State fans’ faith in Sam Ficken equaled their faith that a Nittany Lion was an actual animal in the Pennsylvania wilderness. He missed four field goals against Virginia, and many thought he would become an obscure myth like the Nittany Lions’ existence. But who says myths can’t become legends? Ficken isn’t there yet, but if he reaches his unlikely goal of a perfect season, he could attain legendary status in Happy Valley — for the allure of his comeback, if nothing else. He’s got the leg, having drilled 13 straight field goals, including a career-long 46-yarder last Saturday. The biggest variable will be Ficken’s composure in a pressure situation, as it is with all placekickers. 

Stephen Obeng-Agyapong’s stock can’t climb much higher than it did last Saturday. Eight tackles, a sack, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery and an interception. He didn’t even start. The question today isn’t whether Obeng-Agyapong will match that performance (that would be, as the Penn State football team likes to say, next level), but where he’ll play. The natural safety played many reps at linebacker against Syracuse, and Bill O’Brien alluded that Obeng-Agyapong may make a cameo on the offense today, either at fullback or tight end. Obeng-Agyapong doesn’t sound ecstatic about that possibility, but insisted he’ll do whatever’s asked of him. 

Wide receiver Allen Robinson should play the full game today, and his presence could bode poorly for Eastern Michigan. The junior had jaws dropping last Saturday, when he caught his first two passes of the season consecutively for 25 and 51 yards, respectively. The latter was good for a touchdown. That explosion may be contributed in part to Robinson’s tendency to explode and Syracuse’s tendency — at least for that game — to implode. The Orange should have recognized that Penn State’s best receiver had returned to the field, and they should have taken defensive steps to limit him. Nevertheless, Robinson will still find ways to hurt you, and if he doesn’t, Eugene Lewis’ or a Brandon Felder’s lives become that much easier. Maybe even more this year than last, Penn State’s quarterback has a luxury in Robinson.  


Notable Injuries 


LB Mike Hull 

TE Kyle Carter


TE Matt Lehman



Offensive Player of the Game: Christian Hackenberg

Why: He plays electric in first home appearance. Eastern Michigan gets burned by PSU receivers, leaving Hackenberg with easy targets. 

Stats: Passes for more than 300 yards. Three touchdowns. One interception.


Defensive Player of the Game: Adrian Amos

Why: He had a slow first week. Amos isn’t usually a player to have those games consecutively.

Seven tackles. At least one sack and one interception. 



 Penn State 41 Eastern Michigan 17

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About this blog
Joe Juliano has been a staff writer for The Inquirer for 20 years, covering college sports, golf and the Penn Relays.

Joining Joe this season will be John Stuetz, an intern for The Inquirer and senior at Penn State majoring in print journalism and marketing. This is John's third season covering the Penn State beat. He previously covered the Nittany Lions for the Daily Collegian, the university's student newspaper. A native of Glenside, Montgomery County, John graduated from Cheltenham High School.

For Joe, this will be his fifth season on the paper's Penn State beat. He previously covered the Nittany Lions for United Press International from 1976 to 1984.

Joe Juliano Inquirer Staff Writer
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