The James Franklin era started off with a bang as Penn State avenged last year’s loss to Central Florida in Dublin, Ireland in the Croke Park Classic. Senior kicker Sam Ficken connected on a 36-yard field goal as time expired to give the Nittany Lions a 26-24 win in James Franklin’s first game as the head coach at Penn State.
Here are the Penn State players of the game from the 2014 opener:
Offense: Christian Hackenberg, 32-47, 454 passing yards, 1 touchdown, 2 interceptions
You could easily make a case for Geno Lewis (7 catches, 164 yards, 1 TD) or DaeSean Hamilton (11 catches, 165 yards) here, but Christian Hackenberg is the guy who has to hang in the pocket and throw them the ball. And hang in there Hackenberg did. He took plenty of shots from UCF defenders and kept his composure on several occasions that resulted in some big plays for Penn State. Although he threw two bad interceptions due to some pretty poor decision making, his pump-and-go touchdown to Lewis on third and long was fantastic and he marched the offense down the field to set up the game-winning field goal.
Honorable Mention: Geno Lewis, DaeSean Hamilton
Defense: Anthony Zettel, 6 total tackles (3 tackles for loss), 1 sack, 1 fumble recovery
Anthony Zettel’s relentless effort helped the Penn State defense hold UCF to just 246 total yards of offense. No matter who UCF had under center, the defensive end turned defensive tackle brought the heat all game and was a force when it came to limiting UCF’s running attack. This was a tough choice given the solid all-around performance by Bob Shoop’s defense, but it seemed like Zettel was always in the thick of things.
Honorable Mention: Mike Hull, Jordan Lucas