Eastern Michigan (1-0) at Penn State (1-0)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, September 7, 12 p.m. (et).
FACTS & STATS: Site: Beaver Stadium (106,572) -- University Park, Pennsylvania. Television: Big Ten Network. Home Record: EMU 1-0, PSU 0-0. Away Record: EMU 0-0, PSU 0-0. Neutral Record: EMU 0-0, PSU 1-0. Conference Record: EMU 0-0, PSU 0-0. Series Record: PSU leads, 2-0.
GAME NOTES: The Penn State Nittany Lions welcome the Eastern Michigan Eagles to Beaver Stadium for a Saturday matinee between non-conference foes.
Penn State edged out Syracuse last week in its season opener, 23-17. Blue chip freshman recruit Christian Hackenburg beat out juco transfer Tyler Ferguson to become just the third true freshman since 1910 to start a season opener at quarterback for Penn State. The Nittany Lions are coming off last year's 8-4, turmoil-filled season.
Meanwhile, Eastern Michigan rallied from a 24-13 deficit late in the third quarter to knock off Howard in its season lid-lifter, 34-24. Although they had to scratch and claw for the successful outcome, the victory was certainly a welcome start for the Eagles following last year's 2-10 season.
Penn State was victorious in the only two previous meetings in the head-to- head series, most recently in 2011 at Beaver Stadium.
Eastern Michigan's offense was able to move the ball up and down the field under new coordinator Stan Parrish, whose resume includes previous head coaching stops at Marshall, Kansas State and Ball State. The Eagles were able to rely on the running game to move the chains against Howard, as Bronson Hill rushed for 101 yards and two scores on 28 carries, while Darius Jackson added 64 yards and a TD on seven totes. Tyler Benz threw two touchdown passes and finished with 210 yards on 19-of-26 accuracy. All told, the Eagles tallied 22 first downs and 380 yards of total offense, and they came away with touchdowns on all four of their trips inside the red zone.
EMU's defense pitched a shutout in the fourth quarter while the offense rallied back with two touchdowns to regain the lead from Howard. Senior middle linebacker Sean Kurtz led the way with 13 tackles and an interception. Cy Maughmer added nine stops, including 2 1/2 for loss and 1 1/2 sacks. Pat O'Conner also notched a sack and finished with eight total tackles. Still, the unit has quite a bit of work to do if it wants to improve upon last year's No. 112 defensive ranking. The Bison did manage to rack up 202 yards and two TDs on the ground for a team average of 5.8 yards per carry.
PSU head coach Bill O'Brien decided to keep his starting QB a secret until game time, and Hackenburg certainly flashed some of the talents that led to him being widely regarded as the top-rated quarterback in last year's recruiting class. He completed 22-of-31 passes for 278 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions, also flashing some of the growing pains that are to be expected from a first-year starter. Hackenburg did not get a whole lot of help from the ground game as Zach Zwinak, who ran for 1,000 yards in only nine games in 2012, was bottled up for only 61 yards on 24 carries (2.5 ypc). However, junior wide receiver Allen Robinson followed up his All-Big Ten season with 133 yards and a touchdown on seven receptions in one half of action.
The PSU defense limited Syracuse to only 11 first downs and 260 yards of total offense. Senior defensive tackle DaQuan Jones was disruptive at the point of attack, finishing with a team-high nine tackles (eight solo), including three for loss and one sack. Trevor Williams ended a late Orange threat with an interception at the Penn State 25 with just under two minutes to play and Syracuse out of timeouts. Stephen Obeng-Agyapong also made his presence felt with eight tackles to go along with an interception, a strip and fumble recovery, and a sack. His takeaways set up a pair of scores.
Penn State converted only 1-of-16 third downs during its opener, but the Nittany Lions will now face an EMU defense that had its own troubles against a weaker Bison team. Look for Hackenburg to have a big day now that he has a collegiate game under his belt.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Penn State 45, Eastern Michigan 17
09/04 10:39:31 ET