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Penn State facing scrutiny after historic defeat

AUDREY SNYDER
YorkDispatch


The Tuesday before before Penn State's offense was put on national display to start the 2015 season against Temple, coach James Franklin said any and all offensive line criticisms should fall on him.

"When things go well, I want them to get all the praise, and when things don't go well, you know, that's my job," he said.

There was plenty of criticism to go around after the Nittany Lions lost, 27-10, Saturday to Temple at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia and seemingly no one was spared. Among the critics about a team that surrendered 10 sacks — a year after giving up a school-record 44 — and one where the offense posted 180 total yards on 52 plays, its lowest output since the 6-4 loss to Iowa in 2004, were many former Penn State lettermen.

Left tackle Donovan Smith, a rookie second-round draft pick by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, was part of the line that surrendered the record-setting sack total last season. Smith declared for the NFL draft after last season, a move that was questioned by those outside the program at the time, but he didn't sound too regretful during the course of the game Saturday.

When he was asked on Twitter why he left the team a year early he responded with: "This exact reason."

There also was a gripe from former offensive lineman Adam Gress, who was coached by Joe Paterno and Bill O'Brien. "Everybody's impatience is justified, but know that Hack is the real deal," Gress tweeted about quarterback Christian Hackenberg. "Point the finger elsewhere."

With thousands of lettermen it's no surprise the Owls' first victory against Penn State since 1941 brought out such reactions. The questions about the Penn State offense were building since last season when Hackenberg, once the Big Ten Conference's freshman of the year under O'Brien, noticeably regressed and threw 15 interceptions to 12 touchdowns. Add another Hackenberg interception in there, his first of the 2015 season, and NFL draft pundits already are chiming in questioning the big-armed junior.

"We had some success early and then we just kind of fizzled out there, especially offensively," said Hackenberg, who led the offense down the field on the first two drives resulting in 10 points. The offense mustered just nine first downs in the game. "We've just got to figure out what we've got to do to get better."

Offensive line coach Herb Hand took off his sunglasses and pulled up a chair alongside his linemen, four of whom were returning starters, after they surrendered three sacks early in the second quarter. Possibly more troublesome for the Lions are the five sacks surrendered in the fourth quarter with the Lions seemingly going in the tank after trailing, 17-10, to start the final 15 minutes.

Figuring out how to change the season's course with so much outside noise already coming in will force Franklin and Penn State to have a long, hard look in the mirror this week.

"We can't start as good as we did and then trail off," receiver Chris Godwin said. "You're not going to beat anybody like that."