Dublin, Ireland was the sight for the Nittany Lions 2014 season opener on Saturday, as they took on the Golden Knights of Central Florida at Croke Park Stadium. Last season, Central Florida came to Beaver Stadium and handed Penn State a 34-31 defeat. This time around, the Nittany Lions were looking for revenge.
The first scoring drive took place during the first quarter. Penn State quarterback Christian Hackenberg led the offense on a 61-yard march that took just four plays. The drive ended when running back Zach Zwinak scored the first touchdown of the season from a yard out.
Central Florida got on the board in the second quarter when kicker Shawn Moffitt made a 36-yard field goal. When the Nittany Lions got the ball with 6:20 remaining in the first half, they drove 72-yards in 15 plays and ate up over six minutes. Sam Ficken made a 22-yard field goal to give Penn State a 10-3 halftime lead.
Another Ficken field goal, this one from 33-yards, increased the Lions lead to ten. Golden Knights starting quarterback, Pete DiNovo, was replaced after completing three of eight passes for just 18-yards. Backup Justin Holman came into the game and led a seven play, 70-yard drive which ended with the signal caller scoring on a sneak.
With time running out in the third quarter, the Nittany Lions responded. Hackenberg hit wide receiver Geno Lewis behind the coverage for a 79-yard scoring reception. In the fourth quarter, Central Florida closed the gap pulled within three when Holman found Josh Reese for a ten-yard scoring strike.
Another field goal by Ficken made the score 23-17, Penn State. With 3:30 remaining, Holman drove the Knights 75-yards in eight plays and scored himself from six-yards out with 1:13 remaining. From there, Penn State took over. Fifty-five yards later, Hackenberg got Ficken into field goal range with three seconds remaining in the game.
The senior out of Valparaiso, Indiana made his fourth field goal from 36-yards out and it proved to be the game winner. Sam Ficken experienced both highs and lows throughout his Penn State career, but he proved to be the hero, making all four of his field goal attempts and sending the Nittany Lions out a 26-24 winner.
Christian Hackenberg struggled at times throughout this game and was banged up quite a bit. However, the sophomore refused to led several brutal hits and two interceptions prevent him from losing his confidence. Hackenberg completed 32 of 47 passes for a school record 454-yards and one touchdown.
Geno Lewis made eight receptions for 173-yards while sophomore DaeSean Hamilton caught eleven passes for 165-yards. On UCF’s side of the ball, Holman completed nine of 14 passes for 204-yards and a touchdown pass while rushing for two more scores.
NCAA Football Games held in Ireland
November 19, 1988-Boston College 38 vs. Army 24
December 2, 1989-Pittsburgh 46 vs. Rutgers 29
November 2, 1996-Notre Dame 54 vs. Navy 27
September 1, 2012-Notre Dame 50 vs. Navy 10
For more information on the first weekend of the 2014 NCAA Football season, go to http://espn.go.com/.