No. 4 Penn State at Northwestern: Trying to stay perfect before facing the big boys

No. 4 Penn State at Northwestern: Trying to stay perfect before facing the big boys

No. 4 Penn State (5-0, 2-0 Big Ten) at Northwestern (2-2, 0-1 Big Ten)
Ryan Field, Evanston, Illinois
Saturday, noon, ABC

Scouting Penn State
The fourth-ranked Nittany Lions drubbed Indiana, 45-14, last week, as Saquon Barkley returned the opening kickoff 98 yards for a touchdown, helping PSU establish a 28-0 first-quarter lead. Barkley, tops in the FBS in all-purpose yards per game (243.6), had 205 in the game. The Lions, however, managed just 39 yards on the ground on 37 attempts, and are seventh in the Big Ten in rushing yards per game (179.0). They also allowed five sacks last week and have surrendered 11 to date, putting them in the middle of the conference pack in that department. Right tackle has been the trouble spot. Chasz Wright and Andrew Nelson have been slowed by injuries, leaving the position in the hands of redshirt freshman Will Fries, who began the season as the backup on the left side. 

Scouting Northwestern
The Wildcats, down 31-10 with 9:54 left in last week’s game at Wisconsin, cut the gap to seven but could get no closer in a 33-24 loss. Clayton Thorson threw for 219 yards and three touchdowns, but he was intercepted twice and sacked for a safety late in the game, sealing the verdict. Star running back Justin Jackson, who rushed for 1,524 yards last year but has picked up just 273 (4.3 per carry) this fall, left the game with a leg injury but is expected to play this week. Linebacker Paddy Fisher has 37 tackles and safety Godwin Igwbuike has contributed 29, as well as an interception. The Wildcats are, however, 10th in the Big Ten in points allowed (25.3), 11th in yards allowed (384.3) and 11th in rushing yards allowed (145.0).

History
Penn State leads the all-time series, 13-5, but the Wildcats have won the last two meetings, in 2014 and ’15. PSU coach James Franklin is, in fact, 0-3 against Northwestern, having also dropped a meeting while the head man at Vanderbilt. 

Storyline to watch
The weather. Rain is in the forecast today in Evanston, and that could serve as something of an equalizer.

What's at stake
The Lions are looking to keep their ducks in a row heading into their bye week, with games against Michigan, Ohio State and Michigan State to follow.

Prediction
Penn State 28, Northwestern 16

Penn State can't keep streak alive against No. 6 Purdue

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AP Images

Penn State can't keep streak alive against No. 6 Purdue

BOX SCORE 

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Carsen Edwards scored 27 points to lead sixth-ranked Purdue to a 76-73 victory over Penn State on Sunday night.

Dakota Mathias added 18 points and Isaac Haas had 12 points and six rebounds for the Boilermakers (24-5, 13-3 Big Ten), who snapped a season-worst three-game skid.

Tony Carr had 19 points, five rebounds and five assists, Shep Garner had 17 points and Lamar Stevens had 13 points and six rebounds for the Nittany Lions (19-10, 9-7). The loss ended a stretch of six wins in seven games.

Ryan Cline's 3-pointer with 5:31 remaining gave Purdue a 61-58 lead, and the Boilers never trailed the rest of the way.

It wasn't easy for a Purdue team in search of the same offensive flair that made the Boilermakers unbeatable during a program-record 19-game winning streak that stretched from November until a 64-63 loss to Ohio State on Feb. 7. It became more difficult without starting forward Vincent Edwards, one of the team's most consistent players.

Vincent Edwards sat on the bench wearing a walking boot after spraining his left ankle in practice on Saturday. The team disclosed the injury in a statement before tipoff.

It was another uncharacteristic game for the Boilermakers. They trailed by as much nine points in the first half, during which they shot 42.3 percent from the field and went 2 for 9 from 3-point range.

Penn State led 36-32 at halftime.

Big picture 
Penn State: Despite another poor offensive night by Purdue, the Nittany Lions proved their recent hot streak, which included a 79-56 blowout of No. 8 Ohio State, may not have been a fluke. Even after the Boilermakers found a groove in the second half, Penn State still never trailed by more than 11 points.

Purdue: After dropping three straight conference games and falling in the Big Ten standings, the Boilermakers needed to get back on track quickly with just two regular season games remaining.

Up next 
Penn State: The Nittany Lions host Michigan on Wednesday.

Purdue: The Boilermakers are at Illinois on Thursday.

Garner and Carr lead Penn State to 3rd straight win

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USA Today Images

Garner and Carr lead Penn State to 3rd straight win

BOX SCORE

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Shep Garner scored 16 points and Tony Carr had 15 points to lead Penn State to a 74-52 victory over Illinois on Sunday night.

Illinois missed its first nine second-half shots and didn't score for seven-plus minutes as Penn State went on a 12-0 run to make it 49-36. The Nittany Lions (18-9, 8-6 Big Ten) led by at least nine points the rest of the way.

Carr hit three 3-pointers, grabbed six rebounds and had six assists. Lamar Stevens finished with 11 points, while Mike Watkins and Josh Reaves scored 10 apiece, for Penn State.

Illinois had the lead for more than 15 minutes in the first half, but squandered it late. Carr air balled a 3-pointer from the right wing, but Jamari Wheeler grabbed the offensive rebound and kicked it out to Garner, who nailed a corner 3.

On the ensuing play, Mark Alstork stepped on the baseline while inbounding the ball, giving Penn State possession with 3.6 seconds left. Carr scored a layup before the buzzer to take a one-point lead into the break.

The Nittany Lions shot 54.5 percent from the field, outscored Illinois 34-12 in the paint and won their fourth consecutive game against the Illini. Penn State has won six of its last seven overall.

Leron Black led Illinois (12-14, 2-11) with 18 points.

Big Picture
After finishing three games below .500 last season, the Nittany Lions continued their impressive turnaround this year. With a strong finish in conference play, Penn State could make its first NCAA tournament appearance since 2011.

After scoring career-high 32-points in a 78-69 loss to Wisconsin on Thursday, Trent Frazier was held to just six against Penn State. He has been Illinois' best player in conference play, and without a strong performance from him the Illini struggled.

Up Next
The Illini will face Indiana on the Wednesday night. Illinois knocked off the Hoosiers on Jan. 24 for its first Big Ten victory of the season.

Penn State returns home to face No. 14 Ohio State. The Buckeyes sit atop the Big Ten after a one-point win over No. 3 Purdue last week.