STATE COLLEGE — One quick look at the radar was all it took. This was going to be a long afternoon.
Rain began falling a bit before the gates opened at Beaver Stadium before Saturday’s game against Kent State. At that point, the leading edge of the storm band was over State College, with the trailing edge just leaving Columbus during Ohio State’s game.
A heavy downpour began roughly an hour before kickoff and tapered off as players began their warmups. But the rain was constant for the entire afternoon under heavy gray clouds.
That meant a rough day for quarterbacks and fans in the stands. But it was just fine for a mudder like Zach Zwinak.
“Days like today are great,” the 240-pound tailback said with a grin. “I grew up loving the mud and the rain. Some of my favorite weather to play in, despite what everyone thinks.”
Surprisingly there were only two turnovers — an interception on each side — to go with four fumbles, all recovered by the offense.
Not so surprisingly, the weather kept the stands very patchy. The attendance was announced at 92,371, a number that represents tickets sold, not seats filled. That fact that could be verified just by looking out at the bleachers. By the time the second half begun, the stadium was nearing half-capacity.
Attendance for all three Penn State home games have been announced as being between 92,000 and 93,000.
Lions coach Bill O’Brien personally thanked fans who stuck around until the end.
“I just enjoy coaching,” O’Brien said. “I love to coach. … It really doesn’t matter what to me what the weather is. I said when I was hired here, the type of team we want to be is a smart, tough football team that can play in all types of weather. That’s what we showed today.”
Linebacker Mike Hull remains Penn State’s biggest question mark on the injury front. And given the circumstances, it wasn’t a surprise at all that the junior didn’t suit up on Saturday.
Hull missed his second game of the year and has played sparingly this season thanks to a sprained knee he suffered early on in the opener. He also sat out Week 2 against Eastern Michigan before returning for a handful of series against UCF.
For the third straight week, converted safety Stephen Obeng-Agyapong started in Hull’s place at outside linebacker.
There was little reason for Hull to risk anything this week.
The opponent was Penn State’s weakest remaining on the schedule. The heavy rain led to a slippery field. And the Lions also have next week off before starting Big Ten play, giving Hull an extra chance to rest leading into the next game at Indiana on Oct. 5.
Hull had gutted it out against UCF but was clearly not 100 percent.
Safety Ryan Keiser left the game in the second half with an undisclosed injury. Keiser had suffered a concussion two weeks ago against Eastern Michigan but returned to action against UCF and Kent State.
The rain also did no favors for Kent State star Dri Archer. The All-American has been battling an ankle injury and was labeled “doubtful” by coach Paul Haynes at the start of the week.
Like he did last week at LSU, Archer dressed for the game. But this time, he never saw the field.
The Golden Flashes badly missed his production on Saturday, finishing with just 56 yards on the ground.
For the first time in four collegiate games, Eugene Lewis didn’t have an official touch. Christian Hackenberg targeted him once on the afternoon, looking for Lewis in the front corner of the end zone in the third quarter.
Lewis nearly hauled in his second career touchdown, but a Kent State defender appeared to slap it away from Lewis’ body at the last minute.
He never got a chance at a kick return. Because the Flashes were shut out, their only kickoff was at the very start of the game and was fielded by Von Walker.