Offense struggles, but Penn State capitalizes on turnovers vs. Army

Christian Hackenberg and Penn State delivered in the second half against Army. Rich Barnes/USA TODAY Sports

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- Army fumbled seven times. It committed three turnovers, which led to 10 Penn State points. And it was without its starting quarterback.

Still, the Nittany Lions didn’t seal the 20-14 win until late in the fourth quarter.

With less than two minutes left, Army found itself in a fourth-and-5 on the Penn State 43. Backup quarterback A.J. Schurr dropped back to pass, but linebacker Jason Cabinda smothered him for a sack.

Cabinda finished with 14 tackles, two sacks and one forced fumble.

Penn State finished with 264 yards on offense and didn’t show any signs of life until late in the third quarter. Army’s last opponent, Eastern Michigan, finished with more than 450 yards.

The Nittany Lions are now 4-1; Army is 1-4.

What the win means for Penn State: Not a whole lot. A close game against a below-average opponent shouldn’t exactly inspire confidence. On the plus side, Penn State did improve to 4-1 and -- if it can get its offensive act together -- it could still prove to be dangerous in conference play. But that’s turning out to be a bigger and bigger "if" every week.

What the loss means for Army: Coming into this season, Army was expected to be one of the worst teams in the nation -- so hanging tough with the Nittany Lions, at Beaver Stadium no less, should definitely boost the confidence level. This is a team that’s better than its record indicates -- its first three losses were all decided by one score -- but a bowl berth is still almost certainly out of the question.

Player of the game: Cabinda. He put the game away with a sack, and he was all over the field Saturday afternoon. Penn State has sorely missed middle linebacker Nyeem Wartman-White, but Cabinda has stepped up in a big way and has been a nice surprise for this defense.

Top play: Christian Hackenberg's two long passes on the same drive. Penn State, for some reason, decided to play it relatively conservative and didn’t really try to stretch the field until the final drive of the third quarter -- but that’s where it exploded. Hackenberg tossed a nice 44-yard bomb to Chris Godwin and, on the next play, threw a 33-yard touchdown to Mike Gesicki.