Lions pitch first shutout since 2010 in a soggy 34-0 win

Last updated: September 21. 2013 7:20PM - 2783 Views
By - dlevarse@civitasmedia.com

Penn State's Zach Zwinak (28) scores in the second quarter of an NCAA college football game against Kent State in State College, Pa., Saturday, Sept. 21, 2013. (AP Photo/John Beale)
Penn State's Zach Zwinak (28) scores in the second quarter of an NCAA college football game against Kent State in State College, Pa., Saturday, Sept. 21, 2013. (AP Photo/John Beale)
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STATE COLLEGE — Penn State’s defense recovered from last week’s letdown to lock down Kent State and the Nittany Lions pitched their first shutout in three years, winning 34-0.

The Lions’ last shutout was also against Kent State, coming in 2010. This one at least helped dull the disappointment from the loss to UCF.

Zach Zwinak scored three touchdowns for the second straight week and Bill Belton caught a touchdown pass in an otherwise sleepy and rain-soaked afternoon at Beaver Stadium.

Sam Ficken added two fourth-quarter field goals, including a 54-yarder that was the school’s longest since 1979 and a yard shy of the program record.

Christian Hackenberg and the passing game in general struggled in the second half, finishing just 13-of-35 for 176 yards, a touchdown and an interception.

Akeel Lynch picked up 123 yards rushing in the second half. Belton added 90 and Zwinak had 65.

Penn State outgained Kent State 463-190.

The Lions head into an off week at 3-1 before starting Big Ten play at Indiana on Oct. 5.

Zach Zwinak’s second touchdown of the day punctuated a sleepy third quarter to give Penn State a 21-0 lead over Kent State headed into the fourth quarter.

The pace slowed to a crawl at Beaver Stadium as neither offense could get into rhythm. And it isn’t all on account of the rain.

After starting 7-for-10 passing, Christian Hackenberg hit only five of his next 22 for 55 yards and an interception.

Hackenberg’s protection has not been stellar, and several incompletions came because of pressure. But the offense as a whole struggled in the third quarter.

Fortunately for the Lions, the Flashes have been no better. Kent State briefly switched quarterbacks from Colin Reardon to David Fisher to no success.

When Hackenberg threw his interception at midfield, safety Ryan Keiser answered right back for Penn State, intercepting Reardon on the next play.

Zach Zwinak adds a 2-yard touchdown in the second quarter and Penn State takes a 14-0 lead over Kent State into halftime as both teams get a chance to dry off.

Bill O’Brien’s rotation at running back is paying off and the Lions offense momentarily shifts into gear in the rain. Bill Belton gives the unit a nice spark by showing off his acceleration on a cutback to the right sideline, picking up 28 yards. A face mask penalty moved it to the Kent 12-yard line.

Zwinak then comes on to polish off the drive, bulldozing his way into the end zone for his sixth touchdown of the young season.

Christian Hackenberg is 11-of-21 passing for 142 yards and a score. Belton has 60 yards on the ground and Allen Robinson has three catches for 43 yards.

Penn State converts four third downs in the first half, including Hackenberg’s touchdown pass to Belton. That matches the Nittany Lions’ total through the first three games combined.

Christian Hackenberg converts a rare third-and-long for the Lions, finding Bill Belton for a 15-yard touchdown at the end of the first quarter for a 7-0 Penn State lead over Kent State.

It’s a rainy, miserable day in State College and it shows with both teams putting a slippery ball on the ground in the opening quarter. Penn State struggles out of the gates once again and nearly has its first turnover on second-and-goal as Hackenberg simply loses his grip right at the back of his windup.

Tackle Donovan Smith is there to save the day and fall on it at the 15. Hackenberg then comes up with his biggest third-down conversion of the young season, rifling one in to Belton on the left sideline. The tailback makes a tricky catch and tightropes the boundary for his second career receiving score.

Linebacker Mike Hull will not play for the Lions, resting his sprained knee. It’s the second game Hull has missed this season after suffering the injury in the opener against Syracuse.

Stephen Obeng-Agyapong is expected to start in Hull’s place once again.

Kent State All-American Dri Archer is in uniform for the Golden Flashes but is doing very little during warm-ups and may only play sparingly, if at all. Archer (ankle) has also missed much of the season and touched the ball just once last week against LSU, spending much of the game on the sideline.

STATE COLLEGE — The weather reports already have Penn State fans considering their options.

A massive rain band with some scattered storms stretches from Centre County all the way into Ohio as the Nittany Lions prepare for their game against Kent State.

TV coverage is set for 3:30 p.m. on the Big Ten Network, with kickoff scheduled for 3:42 p.m. in between squalls of rain. While the weather could make things sloppy for the players, just as big of a concern is potential lightning that could force the game to be suspended and the stands to be evacuated.

It might add up to one of the sparsest crowds at Beaver Stadium in years.

It doesn’t help that Kent State is the weakest remaining team on Penn State’s schedule and enters the game banged up, likely missing its top player, injured All-American Dri Archer (ankle).

Linebacker Mike Hull is still considered day-to-day for the Lions with a sprained knee. With the sloppy weather and an off week coming up next, the Lions are likely to play it safe with Hull.

Penn State is still sore from last week’s loss to UCF, looking for a strong defensive performance to help make up for the poor performance against the Knights.

Coach Bill O’Brien and his players spent the week defending their use of “thud” practices, which don’t include full tackling to the ground because of injury concerns. The Lions missed an alarming number of tackles against UCF and are looking to clean things up before Big Ten play begins Oct. 5 at Indiana.

Two players to watch are quarterback Christian Hackenberg and WVC alum Eugene Lewis. Hackenberg has gradually stepped into a leadership role as a true freshman in charge of the offense. Lewis has established himself as the Lions’ top kick returner over the last two weeks, drawing praise from O’Brien as he looks to hold onto the job.

Check back to timesleader.com for live updates from Beaver Stadium throughout the day. For instant analysis and commentary, follow coverage on Twitter.

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