Well that didn’t go the way we wanted. Night game under the lights with a student whiteout and a great Nittanyville turnout of 424 campers- this was set up for Penn State to go 3-0. But you can’t win them all and there were some good things to go along with the bad things to take away from this loss. So let’s get to this week’s Notes from Nittanyville:
- This wasn’t such a great week for my Nittanyville group. I won’t get into details, but Internet complications had some of our group in the second row while the others were in the first row (we’re used to everyone being in the first row). On Thursday at around 2:30 p.m., extreme wind and rain trashed our tent at Gate A (luckily one of our group members had a spare tent). Since I’m a superstitious weirdo, those problems probably contributed to the result of the game (not really, I’m just going to let myself think that).
- All credit to UCF and their head coach George O’Leary. The Knights came to play and looked faster, more physical and more prepared than Penn State did. And Blake Bortles was as good as advertised, as he picked on Penn State’s young corners and executed the offense to near perfection. It got really loud at times and the noise didn’t seem to bother him at all. As a student screaming his head off for the entire game, that’s as frustrating as it gets.
- So is Storm Johnson really that good or did the UCF offensive line just outplay the Penn State defensive line that much? I think it was the latter because from my perspective, Johnson had huge holes to run through the entire game. Don’t get me wrong, his speed and quickness caused massive problems too, but UCF’s offensive line played a hell of a game.
- Staying with the same theme here, Penn State’s defense just didn’t have it on Saturday night. We’re so used to Nittany Lion defenses shutting down the run and getting lots of pressure on the quarterback. Neither of those things happened. There were tons of missed tackles and not one sack/relatively no pressure on Bortles the entire game. If John Butler doesn’t get the defense to pick it up, Indiana’s offense is really going to have its way in a few weeks.
- On the other hand, I really liked what I saw from the Penn State offense. Like I’ve been saying, Hackenberg will gradually improve with every start and I think he took another step in doing that against UCF. He didn’t make any costly mistakes, he moved well when he was being pressured and his throws were pretty accurate. As obvious as this sounds, Allen Robinson needs to get thrown the ball at least 15 times a game because he’s (usually) the best player on the field by far when Penn State is on offense. Zwinak was great and it’s a shame that he fumbled when he did because that dampened his performance. By the way, when the fumble occurred, the dead silence that took place in the student section was eerie.
- I’m extremely proud of the student section for (mostly) showing up on time and (mostly) staying until the very end for the post game alma mater. I thought for sure that when Zwinak fumbled in the fourth quarter that students were going to clear out. But they didn’t and those that stayed almost witnessed a miracle comeback. When the post game alma mater was going on and I was staring right at the depressed faces of the players, hearing the alma mater being sung loud and proud made me forget about the final score for a moment.
- However, something stood out to me during the post game alma mater that wasn’t so great- and that was Deion Barnes and Brandon Felder. Obviously they both came off bad games and during the alma mater they were just standing off to the side, staring at the ground and not singing, let alone being with their teammates. It was their personal decisions and I understand their disappointment, so I’ll just leave it at that.
I was really hoping that at least once in my four years here Penn State would come away with an undefeated non-conference record. But I guess it just wasn’t meant to be. And there’s no shame in losing to a very good UCF team. Now the Nittany Lions have one more game before Big Ten play and hopefully they can fix the issues on defense. Make sure to check back next week for Notes from Nittanyville for when Penn State takes on Kent State.
Follow VBR Staff Writer Eric Sion on Twitter