The SU football team fought, but could not take advantage of Penn State's mistakes in a 23-17 loss in MetLife Stadium on Saturday. It was Scott Shafer's debut as the Syracuse head coach.
Moments before the game, the SU quarterback situation was resolved, as Shafer announced the SU starting quarterback would be Drew Allen, citing his leadership and big arm.
Allen came out hot in his first career start, completing his first five passes. His counterpart, freshman Christian Hackenberg, also made his first career start. Neither quarterback though, could get his team close enough for even a field goal late into the first quarter. With 1:00 to play in the first, the Orange defense caused a sudden change, forcing Tyler Ferguson, who also got some reps in the first, to fumble, which the Orange's Eric Anthony recovered on Syracuse's 46 yard line.
After the time ran out in the first quarter with the score 0-0, the Orange retained control, and used a Drew Allen to Ashton Broyld 27-yard completion to get into field goal territory. Ross Krautman was able to convert a 32 yarder to give the Orange the 3-0 lead.
That's when the turnover battle took another turn. After a Penn State punt, the Orange got the ball back and drove down the field inside Penn State territory. Playing conservatively, the Orange lined up to punt at the Penn State 41 yard line. But, long snapper Sam Rodgers bounced the snap to Riley Dixon, giving the Nittany Lions the ball on the Syracuse 42 yard line. Two plays later, Hackenberg threw an out-route that Jerami Wilkes jumped and intercepted, which he returned for 20 yards.
Two plays after that, Jerome Smith fumbled, Penn State's Stephen Obeng-Agyapong was ready for it, and got the ball back for the Nittany Lions on the Syracuse 49. That would lead to a Sam Ficken 36-yard field goal. After a Syracuse 3-and-out, with less than two minutes to go, the Nittany Lions went down the field and converted another field goal, this time 35 yards, and would go into the locker room with a 6-3 lead.
Allen Robinson, Penn State's go-to receiver, sat out the first half with a suspension, but came back in the second half and made an immediate impact. Hackenberg hit him on a quick out which Robinson took up the field for 25 yards. The next play, Jerami Wilkes bit on a pump-fake, leaving Robinson by himself, going 51 yards to make the score 13-3.
On the Orange's ensuing possession, Allen showed off his arm, hitting Jeremiah Kobena 55 yards down the middle of the field, setting up the Orange in the Red Zone. On the next play, Jerome Smith scampered in for his first touchdown of the season, making the score 13-10.
Ficken kicked another field goal making it 16-10, and with the Orange offense struggling, Hackenberg went to work, hitting Geno Lewis for a 54 yard touchdown past the SU secondary.
Penn State led 23-10 and had the ball on offense in the fourth quarter, but Hackenburg made one of his biggest mistakes of the day, throwing an interception to Robert Welsh, a defensive end, who returned it all way to the goal line. Smith then scored his second touchdown of the game, putting the Orange within striking distance at 23-17.
SU would make a big stop on defense to get the ball back with two minutes remaining, but Drew Allen threw his second interception of the game to Trevor Williams, ending the Orange's chances. Penn State ran out the clock, securing the 23-17 win.
Allen finished at 17 for 38 with two interceptions, while Hackenberg finished at 22-31 with two touchdowns and an interception. In just the second half, Robinson finished with seven receptions for 127 yards and a touchdown.
The Orange will be back in action next week and travel to 23rd ranked Northwestern on Saturday for a 6 pm kickoff.