NEW YORK -- In his pregame press conference, New York Yankees President Randy Levine called the 2014 Pinstripe Bowl "the most successful game in its history," based on advanced ticket sales and the dream matchup of Penn State vs. Boston College.
Mr. Levine evidently is clairvoyant, because the game also met the lofty standards of the pregame hype.
For the first time in Pinstripe Bowl history, 60 minutes was insufficient to settle the affair, and Christian Hackenberg and the Nittany Lions willed their way back twice in the fourth quarter to force overtime. Penn State then claimed its first bowl win since 2010, 31-30, in front of a record crowd of 49,012 at Yankee Stadium.
"New York was an unbelievable host," Penn State coach James Franklin said after the win. "The way the guys persevered, it wasn't always pretty, but the guys stuck together and that's who we are: a blue collar, hard-nosed program."
Hackenberg capped off his sophomore campaign with 371 passing yards and four touchdowns, each a school record, earning the game's Most Valuable Player award as the Nittany Lions claimed their first bowl win since 2010.
"I'm happy for him," Franklin said, referencing Hackenberg. "I love Christian Hackenberg, I wouldn't trade him for anybody. I think he's got a really bright future at Penn State, I think he's got a really bright future moving forward, and I will fight for him until the end."
Boston College scored on its first possession of the extra frame as receiver David Dudeck made his first catch of the game count for a 21-yard touchdown that gave the Eagles a 30-24 lead. But, the Eagles failed on the extra point, leaving Hackenberg one more chance to be the hero.
"We've got some issues we've got to get fixed in the kicking game," Boston College coach Steve Addazio said. "That's been something that's been there all year long. That's not a new phenomenon."
Hackenberg delivered on Penn State's first drive of the extra session, finding Kyle Carter for a 10-yard touchdown pass on third-and-seven. Sam Ficken delivered the extra point, sealing the one-point win -- the narrowest margin in the game's five-year history.
"That was a huge catch for us," Franklin said of Carter's.
In the battle of the 13th-best run offense and the nation's top run defense, for the first three quarters, the offense was victorious.The Eagles, who had amassed almost 252 yards on the ground per game entering Saturday, racked up a whopping 285 rushing yards.
"The defense had been great at stopping the run all year long, but they've got a veteran O-line," Franklin said. "I think early on they had us thinking instead of playing fast and aggressive and confident."
Jon Hilliman led the Eagles with 155 rushing yards, and quarterback Tyler Murphy ran for 111 -- with each recording a touchdown.
With the game tied in regulation's final six minutes, Murphy moved the Eagles 69 yards in 10 plays, allowing Mike Knoll to give the Eagles a 24-21 lead with 2:10 left on a 20-yard field goal.
"We've got to figure out how to close out games here," Addazio said. "We've lost on last drives, last plays, and that's the next step that our program has to take."
Hackenberg drove Penn State to the BC 28-yard line, and Ficken nailed a 45-yard field goal with just 20 seconds left to tie the game again and force OT.
"We knew that would be a factor," Franklin said. "We thought we had an advantage there with the field goal situation. That showed up tonight."
After moving the ball to the Penn State 41-yard-line on their final drive of the first half, the Eagles came out on their first drive of the second and moved the ball 60 yards on 11 plays in 6:53.
The Eagles converted two third downs and a fourth down, including Murphy's 20-yard touchdown strike to Shakim Phillips on third-and-12 that gave them a 14-7 advantage. That lead later became 21-7 when Murphy scored with his legs from 40 yards out with 2:12 remaining in the third.
The Nittany Lions aimed to even the score on their subsequent possession as Hackenberg moved them inside the BC 30-yard line, but a missed quarterback-center snap -- Penn State's second such gaffe of the evening -- resulted in a BC fumble recovery that snuffed out the drive.
"Early in the game, we kept getting into what I like to call 'the strike zone,' which is the first area where we would score, and we would have a penalty," Franklin said. "I think it would've made it a little less crazy at the end, but we're really trying to help the Big Ten and ESPN to get the ratings up."
In the school's first bowl game since January 2012, the Penn State offense struggled to get uncorked in the game's first three quarters. Still, Hackenberg cut into BC's lead on the final play of the third when he found Geno Lewis for a seven-yard touchdown strike.
After Penn State's defense held off BC, DaeSean Hamilton's 16-yard catch from Hackenberg with 6:48 to play tied the game at 21.
It had been more than 10 years since Penn State and Boston College met in football, and with the historic backdrop, a record crowd and a long layoff for both teams, the first half was played in fits and starts. Both defenses bended at times, and each offense converted big plays into touchdowns on consecutive drives in the first quarter.
After Penn State's defense held the Eagles on fourth-and-four at its 30, Hackenberg led a three-play scoring drive, capped by a beautiful strike on third-and-12 to Chris Goodwin that the freshman receiver turned into a 72-yard touchdown that broke the ice.
Up seven, and hoping to seize the momentum, the Nittany Lions tried a surprise onsides kick that they recovered out of bounds, giving BC the ball with good field position. The Eagles needed just two plays to tie the score when Hilliman scampered 49 yards for a touchdown, the longest run against the Nittany Lions' stout rush defense this season.
BC allowed Penn State into its territory three times the rest of the first half but didn't surrender a single point on those drives -- forcing two punts and recovering Hackenberg's fumble at the BC 21-yard-line on the second quarter's first play.
Besides the fumble, the Eagles also sacked Hackenberg twice in the first half.