CHARLOTTE DOUGLAS INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT – As I make the trek from the Midwest to the South and back home, some more notes/observations/quotes from Penn State getting itself off the proverbial schnide. (I have no idea how to spell that fictitious word – it is fictitious, right?)…
Christian Hackenberg’s statistics weren’t any better. A handful of his throws weren’t, either. But what did appear vastly improved from the recent prior weeks was the Penn State quarterback’s on-field demeanor and body language.
Whether it was an intentional effort to do so or more of a function of being part of a victory instead of a loss, Hackenberg wasn’t spotted barking at teammates, arguing with coaches, slamming his helmet or otherwise carrying an expression of general disgust and miserable-ness (another fictitious word) that characterized, in particular, last week’s home loss to Maryland.
Franklin and Hackenberg had a meeting last Monday. Hackenberg, a five-star recruit who’s often been projected as a future top-10 NFL draft pick, has been one of the worst quarterbacks in the country this season in passing efficiency rating – though, certainly, a porous offensive line and lack of any consistent running game has affected his play.
Hackenberg said that body language and on-field displays of emotion were broached during his Monday chat with Franklin.
“That was part of it, (but) I think there was a lot that went into that conversation,” Hackenberg said. “But sometimes things that you can’t control happen and you’ve got to be able to bounce off of that and react. And that’s one thing I had a hard time doing earlier. So I think I just made the correction, easy as that.”
**What drove Belton 92 yards**
Bill Belton, in general, speaks quietly. He’s been known to be introspective (almost Zen-like) on Twitter. But he can be a lot of fun to talk to. I can’t decide if he intentionally has an understated, deadpanned delivery – or if it’s really just an overall indifference that comes across as an attempt at humor. Either way, he makes me chuckle. (As I type it, maybe it was one of those proverbial “you had to be there” kind of things; oh well).
Here was Belton’s exchange with a small handful of media after the game Saturday about his 92-yard touchdown run…
On what enabled him to outrun two defenders who were pursuing him: “I told (cornerback) Trevor Williams I’ve never gotten caught from behind, and basically that’s all I was thinking about at that time – it would have been a big deal in the running back room and stuff like that. That was the biggest thing.”
Asked if is possible to maintain a 4.5-ish speed for a 40-yard dash while running more than twice as far: “I was able to. I don’t think I got touched going through the line so I was able to get to top speed quickly. My biggest thing is I didn’t want to get caught from behind. So once you see the touchdown in front of you, you’re kinda just like ‘All right, I gotta get there. I GOTTA get there.’
Belton said he did not hear the two pursuers. So he shrugged when asked how did he know they were there: “Intuition, I guess… I just kind of felt them.”
On how that intuition is developed: “In the summertime we all met with (running backs coach Charles) Huff, and he had this thing where he kind of took us to a film session called RB School. It taught us about leaning away from defenders and creating positive angles on defenders to enable longer runs. Those are some of the things that helped that run get where it was.”
On his emotions after the game: “I celebrated with my teammates; celebrated with (sophomore running back Akeel Lynch) and Coach Huff, Those were the people who were, honestly, with me at the time things that happened last week and the Ohio State game, along with my family, too. I celebrated with them because they were always with me every step of the way.”
On what was so difficult about these past two games (Belton gained 22 yards on 17 carries in them, falling behind Lynch on the depth chart for each): “I didn’t play well on a very big stage couple weeks ago. And that wasn’t something I wanted to have happen. Akeel came out and continuously got better each week. He’s a great teammate and a great player and I know he’s going to be a great player for this university.
I didn’t play well. I didn’t show up. I didn’t play well. I didn’t affect the game, didn’t have a positive effect on the game. I pride myself into coming into each week and playing well and I didn’t play well those particular games.”
**Indianapolis media reaction**
Bloomington is less than an hour’s drive from Indiana’s largest city and capital, Indianapolis. But to show how little IU football registers throughout the state, consider its coverage in the Sunday Indianapolis Star.
The PSU-IU game story was buried below the fold on page 4 of the sports section. There was no column (none for us at the Trib, either, to be fair), no notes, no “Matchup,” “Grades,” or any other apparent regular coverage.
The game story length was fairly standard – but for basis of comparison, a game story for the Butler University basketball team’s exhibition against a Division III game Saturday was slightly longer.
As for the content of the story written by The Star’s David Woods (), the tone was set immediately with a lede of “Piling on the Indiana University football program at this point would merit a penalty. What would be the point?”
**WPIAL lettermen in attendance**
Former Penn State offensive lineman A.Q. Shipley (Moon) and former PSU quarterback Anthony Morelli (Penn Hills) were in the Lions’ locker room after the victory. They were in front of current players in coaches posing for the photo sent back to Keiser.
Shipley plays for the nearby Indianapolis Colts; Morelli now lives in Indiana.
Hackenberg became the eighth Penn State quarterback to surpass 5,000 career passing yards. … Each of the Lions’ three victories away from Beaver Stadium this season were decided by six points or fewer. … Indiana went 3 for 17 on third downs, not converting any until the final 18 minutes of the game. Over its past two games, Penn State’s defense has held opponents to 4 for 31 on third downs. … The only PSU player to have more receptions in a season than DaeSeasn Hamilton has in 2014 is Allen Robinson. Hamilton had two catches for 33 yards to give him 64 this season. Robinson had 77 in 2012 and 97 last season. … The 330 yards and 13 points Penn State managed against Indiana were both the fewest the Hoosiers have allowed in 28 Big Ten games under coach Kevin Wilson.