Watching the Penn State Nittany Lions start slow this season is becoming a trend. However, unlike the past two weeks, they have yet to snap out of it in this one. Central Florida took the opening kickoff and marched 89 yards in 13 plays to go up 7-0. That was an omen for how the half would go.
The Penn State offense answered with a touchdown drive of its own, evening the score before the end of the first quarter. Unfortunately, that’s where the good vibes ended for the home team.
After the Nittany Lions failed to convert on a fourth-and-six in the second quarter, Central Florida took over and wasted no time going back in front. Star running back Storm Johnson took a handoff and scrambled 58 yards, outrunning the Penn State defense and tiptoeing on the sideline to get into the end zone.
After a promising start, Christian Hackenberg and the offense began to stall in the second quarter and had difficulty getting anything going against the tough Central Florida defense.
Penn State defensive coordinator John Butler has to be upset with the way his squad played in the half. The defense had great difficulty in that stopping the Knights on offense, especially on the ground. In the previous two games, the Nittany Lions allowed an average of just 66 yards on the ground. So far, UCF has racked up 169 rushing yards. Storm Johnson leads the Knights with 87 rushing yards and quarterback Blake Bortles has tossed two touchdown passes.
Wide receiver Allen Robinson lead the Nittany Lions with 77 receiving yards. Zach Zwinak, who scored the only Penn State touchdown of the half, finished with seven carries for 34 yards.
Kicker Sam Ficken continued his hot streak, nailing a career-log 47-yarder in the half. He just missed on a 57-yarder at the end of the half, ending his streak of consecutive made field goals at 15.
Head coach Bill O’Brien needs to come up with something at halftime to motivate his team. It’s not looking good now, but luckily there’s still 30 minutes left to play.
Follow VBR Co-Editor Barry Leonard Jr. on Twitter