Penn State isn’t supposed to lose to in-state rivals, and it definitely isn’t supposed to lose to in-state rivals by three scores.
But that’s exactly what happened in a 27-10 loss to Temple this past Saturday. The Nittany Lions got out to a 10-0 lead but were held scoreless after the 6:34 mark of the first quarter.
How surprising, how disheartening, and how shocking is this for Penn State Nation?
“All those adjectives and more,” Big Ten Network analyst Stanley Jackson said on CBS Sports Radio’s The DA Show. “I was disappointed. I was expecting more. We had this transition last year (with) Coach Franklin (and) the new offensive lineman, and the expectation is that they would be better. They were not. At times, they looked worse.”
Indeed, Christian Hackenberg was sacked 10 times. He was 11-of-25 for 103 yards, zero touchdowns and one interception. He also finished with minus-59 rushing yards.
“Christian Hackenberg went from being a stout freshman quarterback making all the throws to a guy that can’t get anything done because they can’t protect him,” Jackson said. “It’s disheartening. A defense that is very good ultimately gave up too many points because they’re on the field a bunch. Coach Franklin has his hands full. When people think about sanctions hitting the program, it doesn’t affect you in the three years right after because you already have those kids on scholarship, and if they choose to stay, you’ll probably be fine. But I think what we’re seeing now is that (the team) doesn’t have depth, doesn’t have upperclassmen leadership, because this is when the sanctions really start to effect – when those guys are now gone and you had a couple years where you couldn’t bring in enough talent.
“Penn State’s got a long road to go,” Jackson continued. “The good news is they’ve got a really talented quarterback, they’ve got a good defense. If they could just figure out how to protect him, they should be okay.”
Still, if Temple sacked Hackenberg 10 times, one can only imagine how many times Ohio State and Michigan State will get to him. But is the high sack total more on Hackenberg or the offensive line?
“It’s on both of them,” Jackson said. “Look, there’s only a certain number of guys we can block upfront. If I got five linemen, I can only block five guys. If I keep a tight end in, that gives me six. If I’ve got a back, I have seven. Christian has the extra guy – and there are moments when the extra guy gets to him. He’s got to start maturing. He’s got to understand the protection, the schemes, and he’s got to know when to get rid of the ball. You can’t hold it when your offensive line is struggling. But on top of that, we got to be able to give him a couple of seconds. You got to let the kid get back and be able to read through. So the offensive line is not performing at the level it should be at a school like Penn State. They’re not running the ball effectively, so they’re constantly in field position or down and distances that’s not advantageous for getting first downs. They’ve got to fix a lot. I think you do it with the quick stuff: slants, hitches. You got two really good wide receivers. Let Christian get rid of the ball quickly. Let’s use the screen game, let’s use the slants and then we’ve got to find a way to run the ball – and if you can’t run it up the middle, you run it off the edge just to take a little pressure off him. He’s a big kid with a big arm. He can make every throw. But I don’t care how good you are. If you don’t get time, it’s not going to get done. He’s a part of the equation. He’s got to do some things better. But that offensive line has to play a lot better than it did against Temple or they’re going to have a long season in Happy Valley.”