It’s the first game of the 2014 season and the first with James Franklin as the head coach at Penn State. Through one half of play, it’s gone about as good as could have been expected. The Nittany Lions have had some expected miscues, but lead the Knights 10-3 at the break.
Penn State started the game on defense and made a big statement, forcing the Knights to go three-and-out on their first series. Entering the game, there was talk of a lack of depth at linebacker. So far in the first half, that hasn’t seemed to hurt the defense. The Nittany Lions played well on that side of the ball, highlighted by a four-play defensive stand on the goal line.
The Penn State defense dominated UCF, holding the Knights to just 35 yards.
Of course, the biggest question for the Nittany Lions heading into this game was the lack of experience and depth on the offensive line. Those concerns were realized during the first half. Quarterback Christian Hackenberg found himself under a lot of pressure and was hurried on several throws.
The ground game also had trouble getting going with constant pressure from the Knights and managed just 11 rushing yards.
Despite the woes up front, Penn State was able to move the ball. The Nittany Lions scored on their first drive of the game, aided by a roughing the kicker call against UCF that kept the drive going. Hackenberg took advantage of the penalty and found wide receiver DaSean Hamilton on a 44-yard pass that set up the first touchdown of the game.
Hard-nosed running back Zach Zwinak took three tries, but was able to punch the ball in for the early lead.
As the half went on, Penn State was able to take control of the game on both sides of the ball.
Penn State finished the half with 221 total yards. Hackenberg completed 17 of 26 passes for 218 yards and an interception. DaSean Hamilton caught six passes for 107 yards and tight end Jesse James added five catches for 54 yards.
Defensive end C.J. Olaniyan recorded a sack for the defense on the last play of the half.