EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – A quick take on Syracuse’s tough-to-swallow 23-17 season opening defeat against Penn State, played in steamy late summer conditions in front of a partisan Nittany Lions crowd of 61,202 at MetLife Stadium for the designated SU home game:
WHAT HAPPENED: Penn State rookie QB Christian Hackenberg one-upped Orange newcomer Drew Allen as the Nittany Lions pulled away with two long TD passes in the second half to hand SU boss Scott Shafer a defeat in his debut game as a head coach.
ANALYSIS: This one was there for the taking after a first half in which three FGs were the only points on the board with Penn State (1-0) up 6-3, as both team’s defenses played well in a back and forth tempo against each team’s new QB. That changed quickly early in the 3Q with both Allen and Hackenberg connecting on long passes to set up scores keeping the Lions up three, before Hackenberg’s second TD pass early in the 4Q gave PSU enough of a cushion to hold off a late Orange (0-1) comeback attempt.
HERO: The Syracuse defense came up with key plays throughout (two interceptions, with DE Robert Welsh’s pick setting up a TD, and a fumble return on a strip) to give the offense enough opportunities to score, and take away consecutive plays to PSU speedster Allen Robinson in the 3Q resulting in a TD and another 54 yard bomb for a 4Q score, played respectively while shuttling players in and out in the humid air.
ZERO: Not enough plays (or play calls) like the 55 yard Allen to Jeremiah Kobena hookup that set-up Jerome Smith’s 10 yard scoring run early in the 3Q. Stretching the opponent’s offense will be vital to helping establish the strong running game of Smith and Prince-Tyson Gulley. Ashton Broyld and Jerrod West did combine for 7 catches but for only 68 yards, and the passing game will be under the microscope moving forward. Allen struggled in the second half, including a bad pass on one of his two INTs, finishing 16-37 for 189 yards.
WHAT’S NEXT: The Orange hit the road next Sat. Sept. 7 facing Northwestern at Ryan Field in Evanston, Ill. NW edged SU last year 42-41 in the Dome. The Wildcats won at California 44-30 in their opener Sat., but starting QB Kain Colter left the game with a concussion. Time: 6:00 p.m. ET / TV: Big Ten Network.