Penn State beats Boston College in OT at 2014 Pinstripe Bowl, 31-30

December 28, 2014

New York -- In their first bowl appearance in three years since the NCAA imposed sanctions for the disgraceful Jerry Sandusky scandal, the Penn State Nittany Lions (7-6) defeated the Boston College Eagles (7-6) in an overtime thriller Saturday at the Pinstripe Bowl before an electric crowd of 49,012 fans at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx.

Penn State quarterback Christian Hackenberg led the way for the Nittany Lions, throwing with poise and accuracy while completing 34-of-50 passes for 371 yards and four touchdowns.  His performance set a new Penn State bowl record for completions and passing yards.

The Nittany Lions drew first blood at the 5:22 mark of the first quarter, when Hackenberg connected with Chris Godwin for a 72-yard touchdown pass and a 7-0 lead.

The Eagles answered back immediately on the next possession with a 49-yard touchdown run by Jon Hilliman to even the score.  Hilliman would finish the game with an outstanding 148 yards on 25 carries.  The tit-for-tat sequence between the teams in the first quarter also would prove to be the pattern later in the second half.

After a less-than-stellar first half, Eagle's quarterback Tyler Murphy began to pick things up in the third, forging BC ahead to a 14-7 lead with a 19-yard pass to Shakim Phillips.

Murphy then displayed that he was not only quick on the pass, but fast on the grass as well, scoring on a 40-yard touchdown run with 2:12 remaining in the third quarter to give the Eagles some temporary breathing room and a 21-7 lead.  Murphy would finish the game with 105 rushing yards to go along with his 97 yards through the air.

However, the Nittany Lions roared back with a 7-yard Hackenberg pass to Eugene Lewis to cut the deficit to 21-14 at the end of the third quarter.

Following an impressive run by Akeel Lynch, Hackenberg later found DaeSean Hamilton on a quick slant for a 16-yard touchdown pass to even things at 21 apiece with 6:48 remaining in the game.

Murphy then drove the Eagles down to the red zone, leading to a short Mike Knoll field goal to give BC a 24-21 advantage.

But Hackenberg, cool as a snowflake in the Scandinavian Lapland, once more rallied his team with sniper-like precision, driving the Nittany Lions to a game-tying Sam Ficken field goal from 45 yards out with just 20 seconds left in the game.

In overtime, the Nittany Lions' special teams proved to be the difference.

The Eagles received the ball first, and Murphy found David Dudek on a short pass that he then took to the house for a 21-yard touchdown.  However, the Eagles' season-long inconsistency with their kicking game revealed itself at the worst possible moment when Knoll hooked the routine point after wide right.

This provided another opportunity for Hackenberg to work his magic and he delivered, hitting Kyle Carter on a 10-yard pass for the tying score.  Penn State's Ficken then sealed the deal, nailing the extra point to close the 2014 Pinstripe Bowl with a 31-30 win for the Nittany Lions.

One could not help but feel that this was more than just another bowl win for Penn State.  Hackenberg put himself back on the NFL scouts radar with his performance, but more importantly, the victory carried a certain symbolic meaning as well.

The Nittany Lions' fans came in droves to support their team, and the players responded with a gutsy win.  With the late Joe Paterno in the rear view mirror and the ban on bowl games now lifted by the NCAA, a new era -- that of coach James Franklin -- has truly started in Happy Valley.  Saturday's win got that era off to a solid start.

By Brendon Richbourgh
Contributing Writer for 

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