Welcome to the 2013 edition of Notes from Nittanyville! Now obviously Penn State’s season opener against the Syracuse Orange wasn’t a true home game in Beaver Stadium, but the Nittany Lion supporters definitely gave their team a home field advantage in MetLife Stadium. With MetLife being a convenient 30 minutes from my house, I was fortunate enough to go to the game and sit in the third row in the Penn State end zone. So without further delay, let’s get to this season’s first edition of Notes from Nittanyville:
- I just alluded to the fact that Penn State had a “home field advantage” even though the game was at a neutral site. Believe it or not, Google Maps says that State College, PA is five minutes closer to MetLife Stadium than Syracuse, NY. It seemed like it was roughly 65/35 in favor of Penn State. And since I do Nittanyville for every home game, this was also my first chance to legitimately tailgate. In the tailgating lots, it seemed like it was 90/10 in favor of Penn State. Nittany Nation took over the Meadowlands big time.
- Christian Hackenberg performed pretty much how I expected him to. There were plays where you could see how talented he is, and then there were plays that reminded you that he’s still a true freshman and has a long way to go. He took sacks and threw the ball away instead of trying to force it into a tight window. The throw on his 54-yard touchdown pass to Geno Lewis was perfection.
- Speaking of Geno Lewis, I’m really pumped about what he brings to the table. A lot of people forget that he was the best recruit in the 2012 class. He held offers from the likes of Oregon, Wisconsin, South Carolina and other high-profile programs. I know he only had two catches in this game, but he can be another dangerous weapon for Hackenberg.
- There was this one really annoying Syracuse fan sitting in front of me during the game. Every single time Penn State took over on offense he would yell: “Alright, get a turnover now!” His reactions to every play were stupid and after Trevor Williams intercepted that pass to seal the game, he immediately left in depression. It was pretty funny.
- Isn’t Allen Robinson incredible? What he did on those two plays that resulted in the first touchdown of the game was the definition of an impact player.
- I got to give a ton of credit to the whole team for playing that game in that heat. And also a ton of credit goes to a bunch of defensive players who stepped up in big ways. Stephen Obeng-Agyapong had the game of his life with 6.5 tackles, a sack, an interception, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery (and that was while playing linebacker for most of game, a position that’s new to him). DaQuan Jones looked like Jordan Hill at times and Ben Kline did a nice job filling in after Mike Hull left the game with an injury. Glenn Carson was all over the field and was great in pass coverage as well.
- And we got to give it up for Sam Ficken. Looked so much more comfortable in this game in comparison to the beginning of last season. He could be an x-factor in close games throughout the season.
- I know I’m handing out praise left and right here, but the unsung play of the game was probably that touchdown-saving tackle that Garry Gilliam made on that return after Allen Robinson fumbled. Syracuse ended up missing a field goal on that series and that preserved the lead that Penn State didn’t give up. It can’t be easy for a 300 lb. offensive lineman to chase down a defensive back like that and tackle him.
- My seat was also right next to the Blue Band which was pretty cool. Just like the football players, I give tons of props for doing what they did in that brutal heat.
That’s it for now. Penn State has three straight home games to finish the non-conference schedule and to get ready for Big Ten play. The first actual Nittanyville campout of the season starts this Wednesday night and I’m sure there will be a lot going on that I’ll be able to report on. Check back here next week for Notes from Nittanyville from the Eastern Michigan game.