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Penn State bows to Northwestern 29-6

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Northwestern forced a pair of turnovers and held Penn State to 276 yards of offense as the Wildcats routed the Nittany Lions 29-6 in Happy Valley.

After Northwestern took the ball on the opening drive and went 39 yards to set up a 44-yard field goal attempt, Jack Mitchell’s kick sailed wide right.

But, in a recurring theme on the day, Penn State was not able to capitalize on the shift in momentum in a 29-6 loss to the Wildcats on homecoming Saturday at Beaver Stadium.

The Nittany Lions (4-1, 1-1 Big Ten) started off the game with a trio of three-and-out drives and even after linebacker Mike Hull stopped the Wildcats (2-2, 1-0 Big Ten) on a fake field goal attempt, the team was not able to turn the big play into points.

“We were not able to get the momentum at any point,” Franklin said. “Early on I thought we had a chance, but we did things that you can’t do. We dropped the ball for a first down. We’d have penalties...We played similar to what we have all year against a good opponent and it caught up to us.”

The Wildcats, on the other hand, had driven down the field twice and scored on two 1-yard touchdown rushes by quarterback Trevor Siemian to go up 14-0.

Siemian also had throws of 28 and 18 yards on the first and second drives, respectively, to bring the Wildcats to first-and-goal inside the five-yard line both times.

The quarterback finished 21-of-37 passing on the day with 258 yards in the air and one interception along with three short-yardage rushing touchdowns.

“They were just getting the ball out fast whenever they were passing,” Hull said. “They were doing a good job utilizing play action and a lot of their formations are similar so it’s hard to pinpoint exactly what they’re doing.”

Midway through the second quarter, it seemed as if the Lions were closing in on a score, as Christian Hackenberg hit a leaping DaeSean Hamilton deep down the middle of the field for a 51-yard hookup to put the team in Sam Ficken’s field goal range.

Again, the momentum was lost though, as Ficken’s 32-yard attempt was blocked by C.J. Robbins.

Ficken did manage to get one through at the end of the half, though, knocking down a 42-yard kick to cut the Wildcats’ halftime lead to 14-3.

In the second half, after Jesse Della Valle took a punt return 41 yards to set the Lions up at the Wildcats’ 30-yard line, Hackenberg was unable to complete any passes and had to settle for a Ficken field goal.

“We definitely had enough chances,” Hackenberg said. “It just comes down to execution...Our offensive staff put us in a position where we could execute and we just didn’t do it at times.”

Adrian Amos also had an interception that could’ve spurred the team to march down the field and tie the game, but Hackenberg’s pass was not caught on a 4th-and-2 play at the Wildcats’ 35-yard line.

The back-breaker, though, came after the Lions defense had made a stand at the end of the third quarter to get the ball back, but Hackenberg was intercepted by Anthony Walker, who took it 49 yards to the end zone putting the Wildcats up 20-6 at the time.

Hackenberg then fumbled while being sacked on the next possession, setting up a Wildcats field goal that virtually put the game away.

The quarterback finished 22-of-45 passing with 216 yards and no touchdowns along with the interception, while DaeSean Hamilton was the leading receiver with six catches for 100 yards.

The ground game, though, was non-existent, as Belton led the team with eight rushes for just 25 yards.

“We’ve got to be able to run the ball,” tight end Jesse James said. “It can’t just be a one-way game and only be able to pass the ball so that’s something we’ve really got to work on.”

After starting off the season 4-0, the Lions let one slip on Saturday and with Michigan and Ohio State next on the slate for the team, there’s a lot of work to be done.

“[The players] are disappointed,” Franklin said. “They’re angry. They’re frustrated. They’re very prideful and they want to get it fixed. The good thing about us is we practice on Sunday’s, so we’ll get back to work tomorrow.”

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