Penn State gave Syracuse every chance to win the game. But the combination of the poor quarterback play, questionable play calling by Syracuse's new offensive staff and the inconsistent running game prevented the Orange from seizing the opportunity.
The Penn State Nittany Lions defeated the Syracuse Orange 23-17 in Metlife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey in the opening week of the season.
Syracuse transfer QB Drew Allen went 17-38 for 193 yards, had no touchdowns and two interceptions. Allen and the Orange had the ball on their own 44 with 2:08 left, needing a touchdown. Allen threw two incompletions and then was intercepted by Trevor Williams to seal the game.
Jerome Smith scored two touchdowns, but overall, Allen didn't get much too much help from his running game. The Orange ran for under two yards per carry on 37 rushes.
Allen slipped on his first play, resulting in a three yard loss. But it didn't bother Allen, who completed his first five passes. On Allen's second play, he connected with tight end Beckett Wales for a ten yard completion. On third down, he passed to Smith out of the backfield for seven yards and a Syracuse first down. A few plays later, Allen squeezed a pass through a few Penn State defenders for a 13 yard completion to Adrian Fleming. Syracuse didn't score on its first offensive possession, but the Orange picked up 33 yards and showed the ability to move the ball down the field.
Ross Krautman broke a scoreless tie when he converted a 32 yard field goal on Syracuse's first drive of the second quarter. On SU's next drive, Syracuse turned the ball over on a botched punt. Jeremi Wilkes intercepted a Hackenberg pass two plays later and returned the ball to Syracuse's 47. But Syracuse gave the ball right back when Jerome Smith fumbled on the second play of the drive.
Sam Ficken hit a pair of field goals for Penn State and the Nittany Lions went into halftime with a 6-3 lead.
Penn State receiver Allen Robinson was suspended by the team for the first half for undisclosed reasons. He didn't waste any time in the third quarter to contribute to the Nittany Lion passing attack. Hackenberg passed to Robinson for 25 yards on Penn State's first offensive play of the second half. Robinson then caught a 51 yard touchdown pass and the Nittany Lions suddenly were up 13-3. Robinson finished the game with seven receptions for 133 yards.
Syracuse finally opened up the playbook and Allen responded with a 55 yard pass to Jeremiah Kobena to start the drive. Smith scored on a ten yard rush on the next play.
Midway through the third quarter, Brandon Reddish forced a fumble and returned the ball 46 yards to the Penn State 27. The Orange went three-and-out and Krautman missed a 43 yard field goal.
Hackenberg threw a 54 yard touchdown pass to Geno Lewis a few minutes into the fourth quarter to extend the Penn State lead to 23-10. Robert Welsh's interception of Hackenberg a few minutes later led to 1 yard Jerome Smith touchdown.
The Orange couldn't convert on the last two offensive possessions and the Nittany Lions held on for an ugly win.
Jerome Smith rushed for 72 yards and two touchdowns on 16 carries. Prince Tyson-Gulley had 12 carries for 24 yards.
Despite giving up 23 points, the Syracuse defense played pretty well throughout the game. Other than giving up two long touchdown passes, the Orange linebackers closed out on the Penn State receivers quickly. They made a very highly touted QB in Christian Hackenberg look like a freshman on a few occasions.
Syracuse faces Northwestern next Saturday at 6 p.m. in Evanston, Il.