Penn State using creative plays to get most out of Saquon Barkley

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Penn State using creative plays to get most out of Saquon Barkley

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- Saquon Barkley's first career touchdown pass didn't look as good on replay as he envisioned it would. But it worked, unlike the first time the running back tried to throw one.

"You can tell, I can't throw the ball at all," Barkley said of his fourth-quarter jump-lob last week. "I was completely nervous because you can ask my teammates, that play didn't go too well in practice."

In practice, Barkley's release was bad and the ball stuck in his palm on the follow-through. It went straight into the ground, drawing groans, laughs and -- as Barkley put it -- politically incorrect ribbing from teammates.

But it didn't stop offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead from turning right back to it in a playbook that's loaded with ways to unleash No. 26. After all, most of them work thanks to the 5-foot-11, 230-pound back's frenetic ability to spin, juke or leap over or through defenders seemingly at will.

"I don't think that anything the kid does can surprise you anymore," Moorhead said. "I think the Iowa game was a microcosm of the kid's skillset: 350-plus all-purpose yards, he did it on the ground, did it catching the ball, did a very good job in pass protection. I don't get to see every player in the country on a weekly basis but if there's a better one, I'd be hard pressed to believe it."

Moorhead has tried a lot -- swing passes, shovel passes, dump-offs and laterals just in the last game -- to get his star more action. Most of it has worked.

Barkley leads all FBS players with 243.6 all-purpose yards per game through five games and averages a first down per play. He's scored rushing, receiving and return touchdowns and only four players have more touches than his 121, 23 more than he had at this point last season.

His rushing responsibilities haven't changed, however. Barkley's 86 carries equal what he had at this point last year. But as defensive coordinators have pledged to limit Barkley's running room, Moorhead has opted to utilize his best player's receiving skills. Barkley has responded as the team's leading receiver so far with 386 yards on 27 catches.

He's excelled in all other areas, too.

Moorhead notes Barkley's prowess in pass protection -- like his block of blitzing Josey Jewel that gave quarterback Trace McSorley time to throw the game-winning touchdown against Iowa -- enables him to stay on the field in every passing formation. His 98-yard kickoff return touchdown to open last week's game was what Franklin envisioned when he and special teams coach Charles Huff penciled him in as the team's primary kick returner long before camp started.

Franklin was confident his star running back could handle this kind of workload. Strolls through the weight room where he's seen Barkley increase his workout intensity year after year have reinforced that.

"As a freshman, you get in the weight room and you lift and you run and your body really reacts because you've never worked so hard in your life," Franklin said. "But by the time you get to your third year, you don't get the same type of results. His body is still reacting, and I think that's probably the difference with him is even at as high of a level as he was last year, he was still able to take another step."

That's shown up for anyone who's watched Barkley with the goal of game planning against him.

Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald has that task next.

"Barkley is maybe the best player that I've ever seen on tape," Fitzgerald said. "I've played against some pretty good backs, I've coached against some pretty good backs, but he's just absolutely spectacular. He's great in the run game, he's great in protection, catching the ball out of the backfield, he's a great return man, he does it all and he's an outstanding football player."

All of these numbers and highlights have already added up to what Barkley knows is a legitimate shot at the Heisman Trophy. As a user of social media, Barkley said he can't avoid the hype even though he tries.

"I care about (the Heisman) because I'm a competitor, and I want to be the best," Barkley said. "I'd love to try and win it, but that's not my focus. My focus is on the team, my focus is on the game, my focus is on coming out every week and pushing my team to continue to try to be the best possible."

Jerry Sandusky denied new trial on child sex abuse charges

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Jerry Sandusky denied new trial on child sex abuse charges

HARRISBURG, Pa. — Jerry Sandusky lost a bid Wednesday for a new trial and a second chance to convince a jury he is innocent of the child sexual abuse charges that landed him in state prison to serve a lengthy sentence.

Judge John Foradora denied Sandusky's requests for a new trial or for dismissal of charges.

The former Penn State assistant football coach's lawyers said they were disappointed and planned to appeal the decision to Superior Court.

"The court's decision is not the end of Jerry's case, it is only the closing of a chapter which we need to go through in the course of our endeavor to obtain a new trial, a reversal of his conviction, and ultimately his release and vindication," said defense attorney Al Lindsay.

Sandusky, 73, has consistently maintained he was wrongly convicted. He argued that he did not receive adequate representation at his 2012 trial and that prosecutors should have disclosed more details about changes to victims' stories.

"Although he was denied access to the victims' psychological records, Sandusky was permitted to call witnesses to explore whether the victims had undergone repressed memory therapy prior to trial, and he did explore that subject" with victims and other witnesses, Foradora wrote.

Foradora also rejected arguments that Sandusky's lawyers should not have let him waive a preliminary hearing, should not have allowed him to give a television interview after his arrest, and should have done more to challenge the identity of a young man described as Victim 2 in court records.

The judge said the bulk of Sandusky's claims lacked merit.

"Those that remain, whether they fail for want of prejudice or because (trial defense attorney Joe) Amendola's actions or failure to act were informed by a reasonable strategy, do not combine to call into question the overall effectiveness of the defense counsel provided or the legitimacy of the verdict," Foradora concluded.

Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro said prosecutors have "achieved justice" for Sandusky's victims and are confident the convictions will stand.

"Hopefully, today's decision will allow the victims of Mr. Sandusky to live their lives knowing that this serial sexual abuser will remain behind bars," said Shapiro, a Democrat.

Sandusky has been serving a 30- to 60-year sentence. Eight of his accusers testified at trial, describing abuse that ranged from grooming and fondling to violent sexual attacks.

The case, among the biggest scandals in college football history, led to major changes at Penn State and new state laws governing child abuse in Pennsylvania and other states.

Sandusky spent three decades at the university as an assistant to Hall of Fame coach Joe Paterno before retiring in 1999.

The decision follows previous rulings against Sandusky by the state's Supreme and Superior courts.

Foradora was brought in nearly a year ago after the trial judge, John Cleland, removed himself in response to sharp criticism by Sandusky's lawyers of a meeting that Cleland participated in before Sandusky waived a preliminary hearing in 2011.

Penn State's former president, Graham Spanier, and two other ex-administrators, Tim Curley and Gary Schultz, were sentenced to jail time earlier this year after Spanier was found guilty and the others pleaded guilty to child endangerment for their handling of a 2001 complaint about Sandusky showering with a boy. Spanier is free on bail while he appeals his conviction.

The scandal has cost Penn State more than $200 million in fines, settlements and other costs, and the football program was hit with significant NCAA penalties that were later dialed back.

Penn State moves to No. 2 in AP poll thanks to Clemson loss

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Penn State moves to No. 2 in AP poll thanks to Clemson loss

They didn't play this week, but Penn State football still moved up in the AP poll.

Four of last week's top 10 fell Saturday, including No. 2 Clemson. The Tigers were shocked by Syracuse on Saturday, losing 27-24 in the Carrier Dome.

As a result, Penn State, 31-7 winners over Northwestern last Saturday, take Clemson's spot. Alabama remains the only team ahead of the Nittany Lions. The Crimson Tide, who trounced Arkansas, 41-9, Saturday night, is the unanimous No. 1, receiving all 61 first-place votes. Georgia slides up a spot to No. 3, while No. 4 TCU and No. 5 Wisconsin round out the top five. 

Penn State was last ranked as high as No. 2 on Oct. 31, 1999. The Nittany Lions next play 5-1 Michigan, ranked No. 19, Saturday night at 7:30 p.m. on ABC. 

For this week's full AP poll, click here