Hackenberg injured, PSU’s comeback falls short in 24-17 loss to Georgia in Taxslayer Bowl

Photo by Jason Plotkin / York Daily Record

Photo by Jason Plotkin / York Daily Record

 

It certainly hasn’t been a good month (or year) for any of our teams here at Pattison Avenue, so I’ll try to focus on the positives of Penn State football’s (7-6) 24-17 loss to Georgia (10-3) in the Taxslayer bowl.

  • It was looking like a blowout. The Bulldogs had a 24-3 lead to start the fourth quarter, and a furious comeback by Penn State was the only thing that kept the end of the game interesting.
  • The Lions, playing with backup QB Trace McSorley for most of the game, actually ended up outgaining Georgia 401-327. Keep in mind that Penn State is obviously still hurting from sanctions, and that this is a Georgia team that had enough talent and athleticism to be ranked as high as #7 this year, and were actually favored to win at home against the Alabama Crimson Tide.
  • Trace McSorley had a great game. While the freshman QB clearly doesn’t have the arm strength of starter Christian Hackenberg, Penn State’s backup showed quickness and poise in the pocket on his way to two touchdowns, 173 total yards, and most importantly, zero turnovers. He did all he could possibly have been asked to do after being unexpectedly thrust into a game against college football’s #1 pass defense.
  • Saquon Barkley’s second half. The freshman RB is one of the rising stars in college football, and after a very quiet first half, he busted out several nice runs in the second. His 69 yards on 17 carries may not look like great numbers, but there is no doubt that Saquon has a bright future and is a name you’ll be hearing about for years to come.
  • Those TD catches. A pair of beautiful grabs by Geno Lewis and DaeSean Hamilton kept the game within reach. None of Penn State’s receivers had great years statistically, but it sure was nice to see some big-time catches in the last game of the year. While the Lions will lose Lewis to graduation, it will be exciting to see what Hamilton can do next season.
  • They didn’t give up. It may sound cliche, but this was the most important aspect of the game for me. At the start of the fourth quarter, the team seemed like they were ready to fold and head home with their heads hung low. Instead, Penn State dominated the fourth quarter and took Georgia down to the final play of the game. Sure, a win would have been nice, but all of these lower-tier bowl games are ultimately more about the extra practice time and team morale anyway. No one in a PSU uniform should be heading home from Jacksonville disappointed with the way they performed.

 

There are still aspects to criticize, of course. The defensive breakdown by Malik Golden on Georgia’s first touchdown was inexcusable. Calling on a slow and oversized defensive end to convert a fake punt in the first half seems questionable at best. Throwing short passes up the middle on the final drive wasted precious time. You have to remember that this is still a very young team and coaching staff. I hope they can learn from this game, and will withhold judgement on head coach James Franklin until he’s had a chance to see what his own recruiting classes can do.

It was sad to see Hackenberg go down in the second quarter with a shoulder injury, but it had also began to seem inevitable after taking over 100 sacks behind one of the worst offensive lines in college football. I wish him a speedy recovery and all the best in the NFL if this was indeed his final game in a Penn State uniform. I have nothing but respect for everything he has done for the PSU football program.

I predicted a 9-3 season, and it sure does suck to end the year with four straight losses, but I still think the future is bright for Penn State football, and the team should leave today’s game with their heads held high. Congratulations to Georgia and Happy New Year to all of our readers!

And also, let’s go Flyers. You’re our only hope.

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