Penn State Football: Friday Review- Penn State vs UCF

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Fourth Quarter:

For the Nittany Lions, the fourth quarter is where this game fell apart but ultimately would end in a thrilling 26-24 Penn State victory, let’s take a look at the deciding plays to get to that point.

A few plays after J.J Worton’s 46-yard reception, the Knights were able to cash in on a 10-yard touchdown reception by Josh Reese. However it’s potentially a touchdown that could have been saved if it wasn’t for another blown coverage by Daquan Worley.

On the play, Worley misreads Reese’s route and allows too much cushion for Holman is able to throw a strike to Reese for an easy touchdown that cut the Nittany Lions lead to three. Plays like these are why Worley saw his time on the field become limited as the season went on.

Here’s Hackenberg’s second big mistake against UCF. This time the sophomore quarterback decides to throw into extensive coverage by the Knights which results in Jordan Ozerities jumping Geno Lewis’s route resulting in an easy interception. This play was simply just over confidence by Christian Hackenberg in his arm strength. Yes, he has the ability to throw rockets to his wide receivers but he also had to learn when not to throw into coverage despite his confidence. Even if the play didn’t result in an interception it still would have ended up incomplete as he threw it behind Lewis on the play. There’s simply just no reason to throw the ball that deep into coverage.

On the very next play, UCF quarterback Justin Holman would turnover the ball allowing the Nittany Lions to potentially take advantage of short field position. However, Penn State would make another mistake which almost cost them the game. Let’s take a look at the play.

This simply was just a lack of focus by redshirt freshman Chris Godwin. While he does make a nice catch on a high throw he does not immediately switch all his attention to securing the ball fully but turning up field. The lack of focus resulted in a fumble which easily flipped the momentum to UCF. While Godwin is responsible for the fumble, the Knights also deserve a nod for some solid tackles that caused the fumble. Luckily, the Knights would stall on their next drive resulting in a punt. For the Nittany Lions it was small mistakes like this offensively and defensively (see Worley’s blown coverages) that cost them several games in 2015.

This was Penn State’s early nominee for “Play of the Year” as wide receiver Geno Lewis shows some amazing hand-eye coordination on a deep pass by Christian Hackenberg. Lewis originally tips the pass while making contact with a UCF cornerback before making the reception while falling to the ground. This play is mostly here not for the analysis but just for the pure pleasure of watching such a great catch. The Nittany Lions would cash in a couple plays later on a 24-yard Sam Ficken field goal.

Jordan Lucas, who had a solid game throughout the first three and half quarters simply just lost Breshad Perriman on this play that allowed UCF to keep momentum going right after getting a first down. This is a combination of a lack of focus and awareness by Lucas that allows Perriman to get right behind him leaving him right open.

Just a few plays later, UCF would make their own play of the game that saw Justin Holman throw a 37-yard pass to Josh Reese who like Lewis makes an outstanding catch at Penn State’s 6-yard line. Penn State cornerback Trevor Williams could not do much different on this play as he stayed with Reese the whole way but a high pass by Holman allowed Reese to extend and come down with the ball despite the coverage by Williams. One play later, UCF would put what they thought may be a dagger in the Nittany Lions as Justin Holman put the Knights up 24-23 on a six-yard QB sneak.

One place where Christian Hackenberg succeeded in both his freshman and sophomore season was game-tying and game-winning drives. He did it several times in his freshman season, most notably over Michigan and would do it again, this time to UCF to open the 2014 season. Let’s take a look.

The first big play of the final drive came on a 4th and 3. Potentially down to their final play, Christian Hackenberg stepped back looking for an open receiver but after seeing nobody open had the mental awareness to escape the pocket and try to run for the first down in which he succeeded.

The next two plays we combined since they were final passes of the game for Hackenberg. Hackenberg who has confidence in his cannon of an arm was able to throw two back-to-back bullets to Geno Lewis for nine and 18-yards respectively. Hackenberg didn’t try to go deep on each play or try to out smart the UCF defense but went with safe plays and safe throws. Another thing to point out here is Hackenberg’s solid ball placement on both throws, throwing to spots where it would be extremely difficult for either UCF cornerback to intercept the pass.

We all know, how this game ends. So without further adieu, Sam “The Man” Ficken.