UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Running back Zach Zwinak (Frederick, Md.) ran for a career-high three touchdowns on 128 yards, but the Penn State football team fell to the UCF Knights, 34-31, at Beaver Stadium Saturday evening. The Nittany Lions fell to 2-1 with the loss, while UCF improved to 3-0.
In a game that saw a combined 962 yards of offense, freshman quarterback Christian Hackenberg (Palmyra, Va.) threw for 262 yards and one touchdown, while Zwinak rumbled for his seventh 100-yard game of his career.
Wide receiver Allen Robinson (Southfield, Mich.) became the third Penn State player with three consecutive 100-yard receiving games (Kenny Jackson, Joe Jurevicius) after recording nine receptions for 143 yards and a score. In addition, freshman Adam Breneman (Mechanicsburg) corralled his first career reception on a critical fourth down during Penn State's first touchdown drive.
A quartet of Nittany Lions - Glenn Carson (Manahawkin, N.J.), Jordan Lucas (New Rochelle, N.Y.), C.J. Olaniyan (Warren, Mich.), Trevor Williams (Baltimore, Md.) - collected a team-high six tackles, while safety Malcolm Willis (Marbury, Md.) recorded his third career interception late in the first half.
Junior Sam Ficken (Valparaiso, Ind.), who went 1-for-2 on field-goal attempts, booted a career-long 47-yard field goal and, in the process, became the 15th Penn State placekicker to connect on 20-plus field goals in a career.
UCF quarterback Blake Bortles went 20-for-27 with 288 yards and three touchdowns, while Storm Johnson ran for 117 yards and a score. J.J. Worton was the team's leading receiver with 101 yards and a touchdown grab.
The Knights reached the end zone on the game's opening drive to take a 7-0 lead. After a pair of third-down conversions, Bortles found Johnson with a swing pass for a four-yard touchdown strike.
The Nittany Lions wasted little time to answer as Hackenberg orchestrated a 10-play, 77-yard drive in less than four minutes to tie the game. Facing fourth-and-two from the PSU 45-yard line, the Nittany Lion signal caller connected with Breneman to move the chains. Two plays later, Hackenberg and Robinson hooked up for a 44-yard catch and run before Zwinak rushed the final 10 yards over two carries for the touchdown.
In the second quarter, the Knights dashed to a 14-7 advantage with 13:57 left in the stanza. Following an unsuccessful fourth-down try from Penn State, UCF's Johnson took the second snap from scrimmage and scored on a 58-yard run down the right sideline.
Sparked by Jeff Godfrey's 49-yard run, UCF doubled its lead with 8:51 left in the half. Facing a third-and-goal from the five yard line, Bortles lofted a ball to the corner of the end zone, where Worton made the diving grab.
Penn State narrowed the gap, 21-10, after Ficken connected on his career-long attempt. Lynch rushed the ball a team-high five times on the drive to help set up the kick.
The Knights widened the gap to 28-10 midway through the third quarter after Bortles, who threw for 75 yards on the drive, connected with Josh Reese for a 25-yard screen pass that went for six.
The Nittany Lions battled to within 11 with 7:23 left in the third quarter. Following a 46-yard reception by Robinson, Zwinak rushed for a nine-yard score to make it a 28-17 contest.
With 2:30 left in the third quarter, UCF extended its lead to 31-17. After an apparent rushing touchdown was overturned through video review, the Knights settled for Shawn Moffitt's 22-yard field goal.
The Nittany Lions responded with a touchdown drive early in the fourth quarter. Capped by Zwinak's one-yard run, the tailback led the charge with 40 yards on the ground and another 19 through the air as Penn State made it a 31-24 game with 13:35 left to play.
With 8:10 left in the quarter, UCF extended its lead to 34-24 after Moffitt's 36-yard field goal.
After a muffed punt gave the Nittany Lions the ball at the UCF 25-yard line, Hackenberg hooked up with Jesse James (Glassport) for 17 yards and then Robinson for the five-yard touchdown catch to account for the 34-31 final.
The Nittany Lions will conclude their season-long three-game homestand Saturday, Sept. 21 when they welcome Kent State to Beaver Stadium. The 3:30 p.m. matchup will air on BTN.
Copyright 2013 wetmtv.com Nexstar Broadcasting, All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.