- Associated Press - Saturday, September 6, 2014

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) - James Franklin gave no one the run-around about Penn State’s running game during his post-game analysis: It must get better, he said.

But Christian Hackenberg was able to throw for three touchdowns - two to Jesse James — and 319 yards and Penn State was able to overcome three turnovers and an inconsistent rushing attack to hold off Akron 21-3 on Saturday to give Franklin his first coaching victory at Beaver Stadium.

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. Hackenberg set a school record for most yardage in back-to-back games with 773 yards.

Akron held Penn State to 106 yards on 31 carries, including 45 yards from Akeel Lynch, mostly from the Wildcat offense on direct snaps.

“We need to improve the running game, there’s no doubt about; we have to get that going,” Franklin said. “It’s just the consistency. We don’t have the experience of a group of guys that have been working together a long time. That’s going to come.



“It’s everything. It’s never one thing in life. It’s a combination of things. It’s communication. It’s trusting one another. It’s effort. It’s execution. It’s the whole deal.”

The game featured 82 passes and 527 passing yards as opposed to just 175 on the ground. Akron quarterback Kyle Pohl was 24 of 46 for 208 yards but the Zips were unable to hit anything deep against the Nittany Lions.

Akron finished with 277 yards total offense but was hurt by a couple of key pass interference calls late in the game that kept Penn State drives alive.

“We played hard,” Akron coach Terry Bowden said. “You can’t play any harder than we played. We got some turnovers and the defense kept us in the game.

“We couldn’t get big plays so we had to execute everything perfectly and we couldn’t quite do that.

“To be so disappointed at Akron for not beating Penn State is a nice thought,” Bowden said.

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.

One play later, Hackenberg fired a 13-yard scoring pass to tight end Jesse James for a 14-3 lead. James bulled his way in from the 2-yard line carrying two Zip defenders for the first of his two scores.

Hackenberg was 22 of 36 but threw a pair of interceptions that stopped promising drives.

“Whatever we need to do to win,” Hackenberg said. “People stepped up and made plays. I feel like I have to play a little more consistent and progress in order for us to really rely on that.”

Penn State attempted to establish control by forcing an Akron punt and running the Wildcat offense with consecutive direct snaps to Lynch.

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 Penn State linebacker Brandon Bell and defensive end C.J. Olaniyan stopped Conor Hundley for a two-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.

“We just didn’t execute like we needed to today,” Pohl said. “We moved the ball well at times. We needed to be perfect in a lot of situations and we weren’t.”

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