(AP) Penn State won a thrilling season opener with a 36-yard field goal as time expired to defeat the University of Central Florida 26-24 in front of a raucous 55,000-strong crowd in Ireland.
Behind second-half replacement quarterback Justin Holman, the Knights appeared to have scored their own unlikely come-from-behind victory when Holman scored on a 6-yard touchdown run to put UCF up 24-23 with 1:13 left.
But Christian Hackenberg – capping a 32-for-47, 454-yard performance – coolly directed a seven-play drive to set up Sam Ficken‘s fourth successful field goal as the Penn State bench swarmed the field. Hackenberg ran 8 yards for a first down on a 4th-down play in Penn State’s own half of the field during the final drive.
Saturday’s win was the first for new Penn State coach James Franklin, who declared his pride in a team that wasn’t rattled by UCF’s go-ahead TD.
“There was only a minute or so left in the game, and I looked across the sideline and there wasn’t doubt in anybody’s eye. Everybody believed. They believed in Hack. They believed in Ficken,” Franklin said.