After 56-0 blowout, No. 4 Penn State feels there's more to give as Big Ten play looms

AP Images

After 56-0 blowout, No. 4 Penn State feels there's more to give as Big Ten play looms

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — Saquon Barkley hung another masterpiece Saturday but were you to browse the rest of the gallery, you might have found scaffolding and half-completed pen-and-inks.

Because even at 3-0, even with a No. 4 national ranking, there is still a work-in-progress feel to this Penn State team.

Is that nitpicking? Is that the equivalent of searching for a smudge on the Mona Lisa?

Not at all. Not if you listen to the principals.

Barkley turned a nothing pass into an 85-yard work of art in the first quarter of Saturday’s 56-0 embarrassment of Georgia State. The junior running back is a transcendent player, a Heisman hopeful, a certain early NFL draft pick.

And while coach James Franklin thought his team played a complete game against the overmatched Panthers (something he also said after a season-opening 52-0 rout of Akron), he did raise some questions.

He said the Lions can be better along both lines — that they can do a better job running the ball and stopping the run, staples in any era. He might have added that his receiving corps could be a little more productive, his quarterback a little more consistent, his guys a little less dependent on Barkley.

And indeed they will have to be, with the Big Ten season now upon them. PSU opens at Iowa next Saturday night.

“We knew we were dangerous (coming into the season),” safety Marcus Allen said, “but I think we see we can be at an elite status and we can really be that elite team.”

And how do they get there?

“Hard work,” he said. “Hard work and dedication.”

Suffice it to say, then, that the non-conference portion of their season was a starting point, that they applied the first brush strokes to their self-portrait.

“This is probably our best week of preparation, our most complete week,” quarterback Trace McSorley said.

And, he added, it is “a huge thing” to have that at this point.

Now the Lions just have to repeat it nine more times if they are to repeat as Big Ten champion.

McSorley was admittedly displeased with his play in last Saturday’s 33-14 victory over Pitt and spent the practice week smoothing out his mechanics. The result was an 18-for-23, 309-yard, four-touchdown performance. He also ran for a score.

He still appears to be working things out with a revamped receiving corps, which, since last season, has lost its best wideout, Chris Godwin, to the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Juwan Johnson is still finding his way after a strong offseason. DeAndre Thompkins has made more of an impact as a punt returner. Saeed Blacknall, the hero of last year’s Big Ten championship game, registered his first catches of the fall (including a TD) Saturday.

And so on.

At least tight end Mike Gesicki is still around, and Barkley always seems to be everywhere McSorley needs him to be.

Which brings us to the 85-yard play. With PSU up 7-0 and facing 3rd-and-12 from its own 15, McSorley rolled right. Barkley was just a few yards in front of him and looking back at his QB, but for some reason, slid in the opposite direction, from the right flat to the left.

“It was kind of just a feel,” Barkley said. “I kind of thought that Trace was going to lose me and that me sliding would help.”

McSorley wound up firing a five-yard pass across his body to Barkley, and then the fun began. He juked one guy, outran just about everybody else down the sideline, cut back, picked up a block from wide receiver Brandon Polk and, before long, was standing in the end zone.

Asked to explain all that, Barkley said, “It just happens naturally. It’s kind of a reaction.”

Franklin reacted by saying that he “can’t imagine there is a more explosive, dangerous player in space” than Barkley, and added that his star was almost as excited about backup Nick Eury getting a carry late in the game as he was his own play.

“He is a special guy in a lot of different ways,” Franklin said. “I stopped being surprised or amazed a while ago with him.”

Barkley, who played two and a half quarters, finished with 226 all-purpose yards — 142 on four receptions, 47 on 10 rushes and a 37-yard kickoff return. He also believes he has more to provide.

“I feel faster (than in past years),” he said, “but I still feel like there’s room to improve. I feel like I can find a way to get another gear.”

The team as a whole will need to do that, too.

It’s the only way this season might end up being suitable for framing.

Penn State adds to its bragging rights over Temple

AP Images

Penn State adds to its bragging rights over Temple


UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Josh Reaves had his second career double-double, Shep Garner hit two 3-pointers in the final three minutes and Penn State overcame an 11-point second-half deficit to beat Temple 63-57 on Wednesday night in the first round of the NIT.

Reaves shot 7 of 10 from the field, including a career-high tying four 3-pointers, and finished with 19 points and 11 rebounds.

Tony Carr missed 10 consecutive field-goal attempts before scoring his first points of the game on a jumper that pulled Penn State within four with 6:20 to play. That sparked a 16-2 run to give the Nittany Lions a 62-54 lead with 16 seconds left.

Reaves and Garner hit back-to-back 3s to make it 54-all before John Harrar's layup with 1:52 remaining gave Penn State its first lead since 4-3. The Owls made just 1 of 9 from the field and committed three turnovers during the span.

Shizz Alston Jr. led Temple (17-16), which led for more than 35 minutes, with 15 points and Josh Brown added 14.

Carr and Garner -- who came in averaging 19.9 and 11.1 points per game, respectively -- combined to score 10 on 3-of-19 shooting for the Nittany Lions (22-13).

The Owls made just 5 of 14 free throws while Penn State hit 20 of 30.

It was the 93rd meeting between the schools, which are located less than 200 miles apart, but the first since 2011. The Nittany Lions snapped a seven-game skid in the series, dating to Dec. 9, 2000.

Penn State's NCAA tournament hopes severely dented

USA Today Images

Penn State's NCAA tournament hopes severely dented


NEW YORK — Purdue threw a little of everything at Penn State star Tony Carr, the Big Ten's leading scorer. Bigger guys. Smaller ones. Switches and some double teams.

Carr managed only 12 points in a woeful shooting game, and No. 8 Purdue separated from Penn State in the second half of a 78-70 victory Saturday that put the Boilermakers in the Big Ten Tournament championship game for the second time in three seasons.

Third-seeded Purdue (28-5) faces No. 5 Michigan, which will try to repeat as tournament champs on Sunday at Madison Square Garden.

Purdue frustrated Carr and held him to 4-of-18 shooting. The sophomore faced an array of defenders, including the 6-foot-6, 220-pound Nojel Eastern, 5-10 P.J. Thompson, 6-4 Dakota Mathias, 6-8 Vincent Edwards and 6-1 Carsen Edwards.

"When you have a good player like that it takes more than one guy because he's able to make shots and make plays over guys," Vincent Edwards said. "They just did a good job of taking up that space and being able to force him into tough shots."

Shep Garner led the Nittany Lions (21-12) with a career-high 33 points and the senior set a school record with 129 career points in the Big Ten Tournament.

The Boilermakers will be making their third appearance in the Big Ten championship since the tournament started in 1998. Their one championship came in 2009.

Against Penn State, Purdue used a 12-2 run the middle of the second half to build a 15-point lead. Carsen Edwards led the way, spinning through the lane for a driving layup and making a 3 from up top that made the score 59-44 with 9:15 left. He finished with 27 points and shot 6 of 9 from 3-point range after scoring 26 on Friday against Rutgers.

"It's a consistency," guard Dakota Mathias said of Edwards. "He's being very efficient, too."

Edwards made back-to-back 3s to make it 74-56 with 3:41 left and Purdue was on its way to play for a title.

Isaac Haas, the 7-2 center, added 17 points and seven rebounds for Purdue.

With Carr struggling, Penn State could not keep up. He picked up a third foul in the second half, a push off call that caused Penn State coach Pat Chambers to draw a technical.

"I think they were very physical," Chambers said. "Obviously that's why I felt like I needed to get T'd up, my first T in a long, long time."

Big Picture
Penn State: The Nittany Lions had a chance to work their way into the conversation for an NCAA at-large bid by beating Purdue, but now Penn State seems like a long shot at best. Chambers is still hopefully.

"Well, I'm an optimist," he said. "We have NCAA Tournament talent."

Purdue: The Boilermakers hit a rough patch losing three straight close games in early February to Ohio State, Michigan State and Wisconsin, but an argument can be made that they have been the Big Ten's most consistent team this season.

"We had an opportunity to win the Big Ten regular season. We kind of gave that away," said Thompson, one of four senior starters. "But we still had a goal of winning a Big Ten championship on our list before the season started and we put ourselves in position to be able to do that tomorrow."

Purdue does most everything well, except rebound. A night after giving up 17 offensive boards to Rutgers, the Boilermakers allowed 16 rebounds to Penn State.

Shep Shooter
Garner went 4 for 5 from 3-point range, including a four-point play, to carry Penn State in the first half. The Nittany Lions led much of the way, but Edwards made a 3 for Purdue with 2 seconds left in the half to send the Boilermakers to the break ahead 33-31.

Up Next
Penn State: An NIT bid is likely coming the Nittany Lions way, though the big question beyond March is whether Carr returns for another season or heads to the NBA draft.

Purdue: The Boilermakers swept the Wolverines in two games decided by a combined five points.

"Just a really skilled offensive team," Carsen Edwards said. "They have a lot of options. For us it's going to come down to defense and getting stops."