Saturday, September 7, 2013
All eyes on Penn State's offense vs. EMU
By Josh Moyer
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- Good morning from here at Penn State!
More than 80,000 fans will descend on Beaver Stadium in a few hours, and it should be an interesting home opener for a couple reasons -- but none of which includes it being a close contest.
The Nittany Lions are heavy favorites, to the tune of about three to four touchdowns, but all eyes will be on the PSU offense and what it can do against the easiest test on the schedule. Bill O'Brien stuck to short, high-percentage passes in Christian Hackenberg's debut and, if the head coach is going to lengthen the leash early in the season, it has to be against the Eagles.
We saw Hackenberg flash his arm with a jaw-dropping 54-yard TD strike last week to Geno Lewis. And that's just the tip of his ability. There's an iceberg worth of potential still sitting below the football waters.
Will we see more of those kinds of passes against Eastern Michigan? Well, you'd certainly think so. If O'Brien doesn't test Hackenberg more here, you certainly have to think he wouldn't do so against a tougher Central Florida team or against a decent Big Ten squad.
PSU's defense also proved its mettle last week. But the questions on offense don't just necessarily revolve around the true freshman quarterback.
Syracuse blitzed mercilessly, and it would be a surprise if EMU didn't try the same approach. This will be a recurring theme for Penn State, and it has to find a way to stop those extra defenders somehow -- whether it's a difference in play-calling, extra tight ends or blocking backs, or something else up O'Brien's sleeve.
You can't blame the offensive line. O'Brien emphasized that they played pretty well last week. For Penn State to win big in this game, though, it'll have to counter the blitz and test Hackenberg a bit more.
It'll be interesting to see how Penn State responds.