It’s only fitting that a bowl game in Yankee Stadium ended with a walk-off in extra innings. Christian Hackenberg engineered a fourth-quarter comeback, his third this season and the fifth of his career, to lead Penn State past Boston College 31-30 in overtime in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl.
In a game that saw each team’s quarterbacks trade punches down the stretch, the deciding play came down to a missed extra point. Boston College accepted the ball to open overtime and scored in three plays after Tyler Murphy found David Dudek for a 21-yard touchdown pass – his first catch of the game – but kicker Mike Knoll pushed the extra point wide right. Knowing a touchdown and an extra point wins the game and a field goal does them no good, Hackenberg threw on five of Penn State’s six overtime plays, including a key 17-yard completion to Jesse James on 3rd and 15. He hit Kyle Carter for a 10-yard score to tie the game, and Sam Ficken‘s extra point won it.
Penn State opened the scoring with a 72-yard touchdown pass from Hackenberg to Chris Godwin, but Boston College seized control over the next two quarters and change with a string of three touchdowns. The first came two plays after Penn State’s score on a 49-yard run by Jon Hillman to knot the score at 7-7. The Eagles opened the third quarter with an 11-play, 60-yard drive that ate nearly half the frame and was punctuated by a pretty 19-yard pass from Murphy to Shakim Phillips. Murphy then ripped off a 40-yard touchdown dash on Boston College’s ensuing possession to push the Eagles’ lead to 21-7 with 2:12 to go in the third quarter.
Then Penn State responded. The Nittany Lions immediately raced 63 yards in six plays, and Hackenberg found Geno Lewis for a seven-yard score on the final play of the frame. Hackenberg tied the game again with his third touchdown pass of the day, a 16-yarder to DaeSean Hamilton (which came on second-and-goal after a personal foul flag).
Boston College moved 69 yards to set Knoll up for a 20-yard field goal, giving Boston College the lead again at 24-21 with 2:10 remaining. Hackenberg held serve again, rushing or passing on seven of the Nittany Lions’ eight plays in a 49-yard drive to set Ficken up with a game-tying 45-yard field goal with 20 seconds left on the clock.
Hackenberg earned MVP honors by completing 34-of-50 throws for 371 yards with four touchdowns and no picks, while Akeel Lynch carved out 75 yards on 14 carries. For the nation’s 120th-ranked rushing offense, 75 yards is an outstanding day. The three other Nittany Lions to tote the ball were credited with seven yards on 12 carries.
Murphy led the way for Boston College, hitting 11-of-19 passes for 97 yards and two touchdowns and rushing 11 times for 105 yards and a touchdown. Hillman added 25 carries for 148 yards and a score.
Penn State lost two fumbles while gaining no takeaways of their own, committed two more penalties and got out-rushed 285-82, but managed to string more drives together (24-16 first downs edge) by being better on third down, converting 9-of-17 tries compared to BC’s 5-of-16.
The result squares both teams at 7-6 records to finish the season – though each team will spend the next nine months with opposite feelings of how they got there. With Hackenberg set to return next season and a scholarship reinforcements on the way – James Franklin said the Nittany Lions entered Saturday’s game with 41 scholarship players – Penn State can use its Bronx comeback as a springboard into 2015.