Best of Pinstripe Bowl: Penn State rallies for overtime win

Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Best of Pinstripe Bowl: Penn State rallies for overtime win

Penn State needed this win after closing the regular season with two losses in a row during a 2-6 run-up to the postseason.

So, the Nittany Lions will enter the offseason on an up note with a 31-30 overtime win vs. Boston College, which led 21-7 in the third quarter.

And, a 7-6 record looks and sounds a lot better than 6-7, as James Franklin puts the finishing touches on his debut season.

[ MORE: View our full 2014-15 bowl schedule ]

BEST OF PINSTRIPE BOWL

Best play: Trailing 30-24 in overtime, Penn State needed a touchdown and extra point to win (BC had missed its PAT after opening OT with a TD). Christian Hackenberg hit TE Kyle Carter with a 10-yard TD pass on third-and-seven. K Sam Ficken then drilled the extra point to deliver a Penn State win in the program’s first bowl since 2011.

Best player: Hands-down, this honor goes to QB Christian Hackenberg. He has endured an up-and-down sophomore season, entering the game with 15 interceptions and just eight TD passes. But Hackenberg stepped up big-time tonight, completing 34-of-50 passes for 371 yards and four TDs to overcome his two lost fumbles. He also engineered the game-tying drive, taking PSU 49 yards in eight plays for a game-tying field goal with 20 ticks hanging on the clock to force OT.

Best moment: Has to be watching Penn State K Sam Ficken run around the Yankee Stadium turf after nailing the game-winning PAT. It caps an amazing career reversal for Ficken, who missed some big kicks in 2012 in going 14-of-21 on field-goal attempts. The senior nailed 24-of-29 field-goal attempts this year, including the game-tying boot from 45 yards with 20 seconds remaining.

Best stat: 453 yards of offense for Penn State. This attack came into the game last in the Big Ten overall, averaging 325.5 yards. PSU also was last in scoring (19.8 ppg). Great game for OC John Donovan.

[ MORE: Sam Ficken comes up clutch while using The Captain’s locker ]

GRADES

Offense: A. This attack gained 128 yards over its average. Yes, the ground game continued to flounder (82 yards on 29 carries, 2.8 ypc), but the passing game made up for it with 371 yards for an offense that was 9-of-17 on third downs. Three PSU players had seven catches: Chris Godwin; Geno Lewis; DaeSean Hamilton.

Defense: C. This was the No. 1 rushing defense in America, allowing only 84.8 yards. BC ripped through the Nittany Lion defense for 285 yards on the ground. Two Eagles ran for over 100 yards, with freshman Jon Hilliman notching 148 and QB Tyler Murphy 105. At least the Nittany Lions allowed only 97 yards passing, but they generated no turnovers.

Special Teams: A. K Sam Ficken delivered the game-tying field goal in the final minute and the game-winning PAT in overtime. Enough said. BC’s kicking issues played a huge role in it losing, as the Eagles’ eighth missed extra point (in OT) on the season proved costly.

FINAL THOUGHTS

It was over when: TE Kyle Carter hauled in the 10-yard TD pass in OT. You just knew Sam Ficken was gonna nail the extra point. He did. And Penn State won.

A look to 2015: After an up-and-down season, Penn State has a bright future. The program had its scholarship limits imposed in the wake of the Sandusky scandal lifted in the fall. So, the program’s scholarship numbers will begin to return to normalcy, improving the talent and depth of the program. And many young studs will be back in 2015, including QB Christian Hackenberg, RB Akeel Lynch, WRs Geno Lewis, DaeSean Hamilton, Chris Godwin and TEs Jesse James and Kyle Carter on offense. The defense also welcomes back players like T Austin Johnson, LB Nyeem Wartman, T Anthony Zettel, E Deion Barnes and DBs Jordan Lucas, Marcus Allen and Trevor Williams.

About Tom Dienhart BTN.com senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men’s basketball for BTN.com and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, read all of his work at btn.com/tomdienhart, and subscribe to his posts via RSS. Also, send questions to his weekly mailbag using the form below and read all of his previous answers in his reader mailbag section.

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