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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – Christian Hackenberg threw for three touchdowns and 319 yards and Penn State was able to overcome its own offensive inconsistency to beat Akron 21-3 on Saturday.
The Nittany Lions (2-0) totaled 425 yards total offense but two interceptions and a fumble kept Akron (1-1) within reach until late in the game.
The game featured 82 passes and 527 passing yards as opposed to just 175 on the ground. Akron's Kyle Pohl was 24 of 46 for 208 yards but the Zips were unable to hit anything deep against the Nittany Lions.
Ahead just 7-3 with 8:04 remaining in the third quarter and facing a 3rd-and-25 from his 31, Hackenberg hooked up with Eugene Lewis for 28 yards into Akron territory, and he hit Lewis again over the middle on another third-down play to Akron's 18.
Belton took a direct snap and under pressure floated a pass toward Hackenberg that fell incomplete, but Hackenberg then rifled a 13-yard scoring pass to Jesse James for a 14-3 lead. James bulled his way in from the 2-yard line carrying two Zip defenders.
Penn State attempted to establish control by forcing an Akron punt and running the wildcat offense with consecutive direct snaps to Akeel Lynch, the leading rusher with 45 yards on seven carries.
With a third-and-8 from Akron's 27, Hackenberg made the Akron defensive front jump off sides two straight plays and the Lions set up at the Zips' 17. But a Hackenberg floater toward Lewis was picked off by Akron's Bre' Ford and returned to Penn State's 47.
The game turned again when Akron failed to pick up less than a yard on fourth down when linebacker Brandon Bell and defensive end C.J. Olaniyan stopped Conor Hundley for a 2-yard loss.
Akron was guilty of a facemask call on Penn State's first play and Hackenberg found James on a 44-yard touchdown strike to push the lead to 21-3.
Akron tried to cling to life with a 15-play drive that covered 67 yards and featured eight Pohl completions but ended at Penn State's 13 with four straight incompletions.
Both teams moved the ball in opening quarter, Akron cruising downfield 60 yards on its initial possession off quick, drop-back passes from Pohl. But Pohl threw away a first-and-goal pass and was sacked on successive plays by Penn State's Anthony Zettel and Jordan Lucas. Kicker Tom O'Leary missed a 31-yard field goal.
One series later, Penn State's Hackenberg found Lewis open for 20 yards, DaeSean Hamilton for 15 more and capped it off with an audible and pump-fake that found Belton wide open down the left sideline for a 22-yard touchdown and a 7-0 lead.