Christian Hackenberg and James Franklin — the joy of victory.
By Sam Bush
For James Franklin’s first Penn State team, New York, New York was, like the song says, “a place so nice they named it twice.
The Nittany Lions became bowl eligible when the NCAA listed the Jerry Sandusky scandal-induced sanctions back in November and then yesterday in Yankee Stadium they beat Boston Boston College 31-30 on Sam Ficken’s point after touchdown in OT after his 45-yard field goal with 20 seconds remaining sent the game into extras.
Penn State’s offensive line, after allowing 42 sacks in the team’s first 12 games, kept quarterback Christian Hackenberg upright for all of the second half and overtime, and the sophomore quarterback took advantage of the protection to help deliver the Nittany Lions a win they will not soon forget.
Hackenberg threw for 371 yards and four touchdowns, including a decisive 10-yard strike to Kyle Carter in the first overtime, and earned game MVP honors as Penn State made its return to postseason play a triumphant one with a thrilling, come-from-behind victory over Boston College in front of a sea of blue-and-white-clad faithful on Saturday in the Pinstripe Bowl.
Ficken, who kicked a 45-yard field goal with 20 seconds left in regulation to force overtime, booted the game-winning PAT after Hackenberg’s scoring pass to bring the game to its final score and send the Nittany Lion sideline pouring onto the field in jubilation.
Boston College had taken the lead earlier in overtime on a 21-yard touchdown reception by former Hun star David Dudeck, but kicker Mike Knoll missed the ensuing PAT to leave the score at 30-24.
The Nittany Lions trailed 21-7 late in the third quarter but scored 17 points in the game’s final 15 minutes, starting with a touchdown pass on the final play of the third quarter, to rally from. Boston College had taken a 24-21 lead on a 20-yard field goal by Knoll with 2:10 left in the game before Hackenberg led his team down the field to get in position for the tie.
Penn State finishes its first season under coach James Franklin with a 7-6 record. Boston College also finishes 7-6 after suffering its third loss in its last four games.
Boston College grabbed its first lead of the game to open the second half when Tyler Murphy hit Shakim Phillips, a Paterson native and former DePaul standout, for a 20-yard touchdown pass on third-and-long to give the Golden Eagles a 14-7 lead with 8:07 left in the third quarter. The two had connected for a 8-yard gain earlier in the drive on fourth-and-1.
Penn State then drove down to the Boston College 29, but disaster struck when the Nittany Lions coughed the ball up on their second errant snap of the game. BC then took immediate advantage, taking a 21-7 lead on a 40-yard touchdown run by Murphy with 2:12 left in the third quarter.
But Penn State would pull to within 21-14 when receiver Geno Lewis hauled in a deflected pass for a 7-yard touchdown reception on the last play of the third quarter, and then tie the game at 21 with 6:48 left on a 16-yard touchdown pass by Christian Hackenberg to Daesean Hamilton.
After Boston College went for it on fourth down at the Penn State 30 midway through the first quarter and turned it over after Murphy overthrew a wide open receiver for what would have been a first down, the Nittany Lions (6-6) scored the game’s first points on a 72-yard touchdown pass by Hackenberg to Chris Godwin with 5:22 left in the first quarter.
Boston College would tie the game just 43 seconds later, however, on a 49-yard touchdown run by former St. Peter’s Prep star Jon Hilliman as the Golden Eagles took quick advantage of a short field after Penn State’s surprise onside kick went out of bounds.
The Golden Eagles would recover a fumble on their own 22 early in the second quarter, but their ensuing drive would stall out at the Penn State 45 – a theme for the rest of the first half, as both teams would struggle offensively and enter the break tied at 7.