Monday, April 22, 2013
Spring game recap: Penn State
By Adam Rittenberg
Saturday featured a three-pack of spring games around the Big Ten, and we're recapping each one. Next up, the annual Blue-White Game at Penn State.
You can find coverage of Penn State's spring game here and here and here and here.
Star of the game: Redshirt freshman running back Akeel Lynch. He turned in a very impressive performance, rushing for 83 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries, including a 27-yard burst. Lynch showed he's very much in the mix to start for Penn State and capitalized on an opportunity as Bill Belton (toe) missed the game and Zach Zwinak left early with a hand injury.
How it went down: The defense recorded a 67-47 victory in the game, thanks to a modified/confusing scoring system, but the offense garnered more attention at Beaver Stadium. Fans got their first glimpse of quarterback candidates Steven Bench and Tyler Ferguson, who had identical passing lines (9-for-15) and didn't leave much clarity in the race to name a starter.
Ferguson fired two touchdown passes and Bench threw one. Bench also directed a touchdown drive on the opening series capped by Lynch's 1-yard run. Both not surprisingly showed some inconsistency.
"I'm not any closer," head coach Bill O'Brien said of determining a starter. "But I enjoy coaching both guys and, eventually, we'll have to make a decision. But I'm not ready to make that right now."
Incoming recruit Christian Hackenberg, who attended the game, will have a chance to compete for the job when he arrives this summer.
Both quarterbacks connected on long passes to sophomore tight end Jesse James, who had a big day (five receptions, 77 yards, TD). Sophomore receiver Matt Zanellato also performed well with four receptions for 53 yards.
Despite some big plays on offense, Penn State's defensive front seemed to control the line of scrimmage, applying steady pressure on the quarterbacks. Although the sacks total (nine) isn't really relevant because quarterbacks were off limits, linemen like Brad Bars and Deion Barnes consistently beat their men.
The Lions also appear to be stronger and deeper in the secondary. Adrian Amos has moved from cornerback to safety, as Jordan Lucas had a strong spring at corner and converted receivers Trevor Williams (two pass break-ups) and Malik Golden (four tackles) had some plays in the game.
"Everyone on defense is light years ahead of where we were last year at this time just because of the familiarity," new defensive coordinator John Butler said.
O'Brien supplied a highlight by going on the stadium microphone in the third quarter. He encouraged fans to start the wave and jokingly prodding some players.
Several projected starters missed the spring game with injuries, including tight end Kyle Carter (wrist) and defensive tackle DaQuan Jones (back).