Penn State secured its postseason eligibility and made a statement against intrastate rival Temple with a 30-13 win that featured a season-best rushing performance. The Nittany Lions set a new season-high with 254 rushing yards and forced five turnovers to win their second straight game in advance of Saturday’s road trip to Illinois.
The Penn State offense finished with a season-high 254 rushing yards behind big efforts from Akeel Lynch (130 yards) and Bill Belton (92). That 1-2 punch got a considerable boost from the left-side tandem of Donovan Smith and Miles Dieffenbach, who played alongside each other for the first time this season. Injuries had caused both players to miss time.
Penn State might be settling on a new rotation on its offensive line with both Smith and Dieffenbach anchoring the left side, redshirt sophomore Wendy Laurent taking over at center and Angelo Mangiro moving to right guard. Andrew Nelson continues to hold down the right tackle position.
The Nittany Lions have now won back-to-back games after a four-game losing streak, the second of which featured promising signs for the remainder of the season. In the absence of an effective passing attack, one that has yielded 37 sacks on quarterback Christian Hackenberg, Penn State turned in its most promising rushing performance of the season.
The defense was as impressive as ever in holding the Owls to eight first downs and keeping dual-threat quarterback P.J. Walker under wraps, to the tune of 17 of 38 completions for 187 yards with one touchdown and four interceptions. The nation’s top-ranked run defense limited Temple to just 61 yards on 20 carries.
Hackenberg was one of the lone negatives from the Temple outing, Ross Tucker concluded on the Keystone Sports Network podcast. He completed just 12 of 26 passes for 112 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions, again showing regression from the form he showed in winning Big Ten rookie of the year honors last season. Early offensive line issues, a brand new cast of receivers and a steady flow of hits might be fueling mechanical issues.
Bob Flounders, Andrew P. Shay and Tucker tackle the offensive line, the running game, Hackenberg and plenty more in this week’s KSN podcast. Check out audio from the show in this post and get plenty more podcasts and analysis on KeystoneSportsNetwork.com and by following @KSNSportsNet on Twitter.