A week after a stunning home loss, Penn State responded by delivering an expected blowout.
Zach Zwinak scored three touchdowns for the second-straight week, and the Nittany Lions shutout Kent State 34-0 in a downpour at Beaver Stadium.
Zwinak along with fellow tailbacks Bill Belton and Akeel Lynch combined for 279 yards on 42 carries as the Penn State (3-1) dominated the line of scrimmage all day. The visiting Golden Flashes (1-3), meanwhile, chalked up just 56 yards on 24 attempts as the Penn State defense returned to stifling form following a lackluster showing last week.
Consistent rain most of the game put a damper on both teams’ passing games, but the Nittany Lions were able to find footing in the running game and ride it to victory.
Penn State’s freshman signal caller Christian Hackenberg struggled as expected in the harsh conditions, completing just 13 of 35 passes for 176 yards. It marked a career-low passing day for the young quarterback, who also threw a touchdown and an interception.
But Kent State quarterback Colin Reardon wasn’t even that good, completing 12 of 28 for just 100 yards and an interception. The Golden Flashes struggled mightily moving the ball against a motivated Penn State defense, managing just 190 total yards and nine first downs on the day.
Even if the Flashes could muster any offense, the Nittany Lion running game would have salted the clock away regardless.
Bill Belton started the scoring at the end of a sloppy first quarter when he took a 15-yard pass from Hackenberg into the endzone to put the Lions up 7-0.
Zwinak’s first touchdown put the Lions up 14-0 on a two-yard plunge in the second quarter, and the bruising tailback added a one-yard score to push the Lions ahead 21-0 late in the third quarter.
After a Sam Ficken 25-yard field goal to put the Lions up 24-0 early in the fourth, Zwinak completed the touchdown trifecta for the second time in as many weeks with yet another one-yard dive at the 6:42 mark.
Ficken capped the scoring with a career long 54-yard field goal at the 2:45 mark to put the Lions on top 34-0. The junior has made five of his first six field goal attempts to start the season (with the only miss coming from 50+ yards) and has drilled all 12 of his PATs.
While the Penn State rushing game enjoyed success in defeat last week against UCF, the defense did not and wanted to prove that their performance was an aberration. Well they did just that in serving up their first shutout since blanking the same Kent State team 24-0 back in 2010.
Part of the redemption for the Penn State defense in the shutout was seven tackles for loss, three sacks, 10 pass breakups and an interception all at the expense of the Golden Flash offense. Leading the way was senior linebacker Glenn Carson, who made seven tackles –including two for loss- on the day. Fellow senior Ryan Keiser had a great day in the Nittany Lion secondary, notching four tackles, three pass breakups and an interception.
The lone bright spot for the Golden Flashes was punter Anthony Melchiori, who was busy in punting 10 times, but averaged an impressive 46.5 yards per kick and dropped four inside the 20.
Not to be outdone, Hackenberg pooch punted in the first quarter and dropped it inside the Kent State 10 yard line for 43 yards on his first collegiate punt.
Penn State opens up Big Ten play following a bye next week when the Lions head to Bloomington to face Indiana (2-1).
¨ Six touchdowns in two weeks is impressive; eight in four weeks has the makings of an All Big-Ten season for the senior.
¨ Secondary needed someone –anyone- to step up after last weeks disaster and Keiser (four tackles, three PD’s and a pick) certainly was that man on Saturday.
¨ The junior has gone from an afterthought last season to one of the very best kickers in the nation, true testament to hard work and perseverance.