Even Heisman hopeful Saquon Barkley can't save No. 7 Penn State

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Even Heisman hopeful Saquon Barkley can't save No. 7 Penn State

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EAST LANSING, Mich. — When Saquon Barkley has the ball in his hands, all eyes are on him. That’s why you’d be hard-pressed to find many people in the country who don’t think he’s a candidate for the Heisman.

But when the Nittany Lions lose — as they have two weeks in a row after falling, 27-24, to No. 24 Michigan State on Saturday — it’s easy to take a closer look at Barkley and the rest of the offense.

Saturday’s game against Michigan State was the most recent example, as Barkley struggled to get anything going on the ground.

The seventh-ranked Nittany Lions went to their passing game on a majority of plays against the Spartans — who tend to stack the box. When they did give it to Barkley, though, there was no running room to be had. It resulted in Barkley rushing for 0 yards on six carries in the first half.

The junior’s production picked up a bit, as he ripped off a 38-yard carry on Penn State’s first drive of the second half to bring his total to 63 on the day. For Nittany Lions’ coach James Franklin, though, that’s not good enough.

“Saquon didn’t struggle today,” Franklin said. “Our offense struggled at times today, and we haven’t been running the ball consistently this year.”

The bit of success Penn State did have on the ground came when they challenged the edges of the Michigan State defense. On the first offensive play of the second half, quarterback Trace McSorley tossed the ball to Barkley out wide to his left. Barkley nearly turned the corner but was tripped up after a three-yard gain.

But the Nittany Lions stuck with it. On the very next play, they ran the exact same look to the other side. This time, the blocking on the edge was better, and Barkley showed the burst we're used to seeing, sprinting up the Penn State sideline.

“In the first half, we saw a couple looks — blitzing inside — and thought that we could get to the perimeter, so that’s what we started doing.” sophomore center Connor McGovern said.

For a moment, it seemed like those plays loosened up the Spartan defense. On Barkley’s next run, he gashed Michigan State for seven yards right up the middle.

That success didn’t last long, though. Michigan State and its fourth-best rushing defense in the country tightened down and frustrated the Nittany Lion rushing attack the rest of the night.

“It’s Michigan State,” Barkley said. “They’re well-coached, they’re hard-nosed, they fly to the ball, they tackle very well. We started off slow in the run game. Second half we started getting going, the O-line got a lot of movement, I was able to take what the defense gave me, and the run game just got finally able to make plays. It was a good game, but we came up short.”

In Franklin’s eyes, that hard-nosed attitude is exactly what separates their rush defense from the Penn State rush offense, and that’s something he’s determined to change for the future.

“If we’ve got to go back to the old ‘inside drill,’ and just do that every single day of practice, that’s what we’re gonna do,” Franklin said. “We’re gonna become more of a hard-nosed team up front on both sides of the ball — offense and defense. Tight end, offensive line, running backs, everybody. We’re gonna be more physical up front, and we’re not right now.”

Penn State comes up short in overtime

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Penn State comes up short in overtime

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Dupree McBrayer scored 14 of a career-high 24 points in the second half and overtime and Minnesota beat Penn State 95-84 on Monday night.

Nate Mason added 25 points and Jordan Murphy scored 22 and grabbed 19 rebounds for the Golden Gophers (14-6, 3-4 Big Ten) who snapped a three-game losing streak.

Tony Carr scored 33 points, Mike Watkins added 20 and 11 rebounds and Lamar Stevens chipped in 12 for Penn State (13-7, 3-4).

Minnesota made 53 percent of its field goals on 35-for-66 shooting. That included a 10-for-17 pace from 3-point range with three coming in overtime after the Golden Gophers gave up a 13-point lead with 8:56 to play.

McBrayer hit a jumper then to put Minnesota up with its largest lead of the game at 63-50 but Penn State raced back with a 15-2 run. Mike Watkins capped Penn State's surge with his second steal, sprinted the other way for a dunk that tied it 65.

The teams traded baskets down the stretch before Carr sank a 3-pointer with three seconds left to make it 74-all and force overtime.

Big Picture
Minnesota: The Golden Gophers needed some positive energy. Losers of three straight since star Reggie Lynch was suspended and talented sophomore Amir Coffey was hurt, a win to kick off an East Coast road trip featuring three games in six days should boost their morale.

Penn State: The Nittany Lions need Josh Reaves back. They looked listless at points in this one without arguably their most fiery player. Notably, Penn State has allowed nearly 10 more points per game with their best defender suspended for academic reasons.

Up Next
Minnesota travels to Maryland on Thursday.

Penn State travels to Northwestern on Saturday.

Tony Carr saves his best for last in OT

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Tony Carr saves his best for last in OT

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Tony Carr has had some nice second-half efforts lately. Penn State's top shooter saved most of his best stuff for overtime on Friday.

Carr scored nine of his 17 points, including a game-winning long jumper with three seconds left in overtime, and Penn State beat Nebraska 76-74 and secure Pat Chambers' 100th win as Penn State's coach on Friday?night.

Lamar Stevens scored 26 points and Mike Watkins added 20 and grabbed 15 rebounds for the Nittany Lions (13-6, 3-3 Big Ten), who led by as many as 16 in the second half.

But it was Carr, who notched 18 of 28 in the second half at Indiana on Tuesday, who wrestled control back with tough makes through crowds of defenders in the final five minutes.

"Tony had the guts to come out and hit some big shots for us when he didn't have the best shooting night," Chambers said.

When Carr was working to find his shot, Stevens was taking over in a fashion that's become typical for him of late. The hybrid forward entered the game averaging 22 points over the last three.

He quickly kept at it with 10 of Penn State's first 19 points and Penn State closed out the first half on a 21-9 run and led 33-24. Nebraska made just five of its final 14 field goals in that span and finished the first half 9-for-32 from the floor.

"You can't just get blasted in the first half like that," Nebraska coach Tim Miles said. "We have to be more prepared to battle with a guy who's a warrior like that because he just attacks the rim."

Glynn Watson Jr. and Isaac Copeland scored 21 points apiece while Isaiah Roby and Anton Gill scored 12 and 10, respectively, for the Cornhuskers (12-7, 3-3).

Shep Garner made a 3-pointer to give Penn State its largest lead at 42-26 just over two minutes into the second half.

But the Huskers fought back from there and switched to a press look to slow Penn State's offense.

They put together a 39-23 run that included back-to-back 3-pointers from Copeland and Watson that made it a two-point game with?3:28?to play. They combined for four free throws and Watson hit the final shot of regulation moments later to send it to overtime 65-65.

The big picture
Nebraska: The Cornhuskers were on a good stretch with five wins in six tries before?Friday's?game. Runs like that could come more often if they shoot better. Nebraska entered the Bryce Jordan Center shooting just 43 percent from the floor and 36 percent from 3-point range for the season.

Penn State: All three of Penn State's conference losses have come by six or fewer points and although they played a poor-shooting team in this one, the Nittany Lions have enough talent committed to playing defense to keep even good offenses at bay. Whether they can outscore those teams, or hold on to big leads, remains to be seen.

No Reaves
Penn State was again without its top defender as Josh Reaves sat out a second straight game for academic reasons. Reaves leads the team and is 15th nationally with 2.47 steals per game. He's chipped in 10.8 points per game, too.

Awaiting word on Tshimanga
Nebraska was without starting center Jordy Tshimanga, who did not make the trip to Penn State as he mulls whether to transfer. Multiple outlets reported Tshimanga's frustration with the way his season has unfolded.

The 6-foot-11 sophomore started all 18 games previously and was averaging 3.5 points and 5.1 rebounds over 15.2 minutes per game.

Miles said he couldn't offer an update yet on Tshimanga's status.

"I won't know until I get home," he said.

Up next
Nebraska hosts Illinois (10-8, 0-5)?on Monday.

Penn State hosts Minnesota (13-5, 2-3) on Monday.