Saquon Barkley, No. 4 Penn State rout Indiana as season-defining stretch lies ahead

Saquon Barkley, No. 4 Penn State rout Indiana as season-defining stretch lies ahead


STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — His team is 5-0, but James Franklin was talking clean-ups Saturday.

A clean-up of a running game that struggles at times despite the presence of the nation’s most dynamic back. A clean-up of the suddenly unreliable field-goal unit.

This matters now, because October is here and No. 4 Penn State — despite Saturday’s 45-14 victory over Indiana, despite its best start since 2008 — is about to step up in class.

There is a potentially tricky trip to Northwestern next Saturday, and two weeks after that the Nittany Lions begin a three-game stretch that will define their season — Michigan at home, Ohio State and Michigan State on the road.

By then, it will be too late for clean-ups. By then, things will have to be neat and clean.

“There are areas we have to get better,” Franklin said. “For where we want to go and what we want to do, we have to get better.”

To date Saquon Barkley and Trace McSorley have most often tidied things up — McSorley, notably, with his last-second touchdown pass at Iowa last week, Barkley with his continual exploits.

After providing a school-record 358 all-purpose yards against the Hawkeyes, he returned Saturday’s opening kickoff 98 yards, and by quarter’s end, the Lions were up 28-0.

The day unraveled a bit after that. PSU managed all of 22 yards while allowing two Hoosiers touchdowns in the second quarter. Tyler Davis, 30 for 32 on field goals before this season but 5 for 11 this fall, missed from 21 yards, connected from 45 and had a 42-yarder blocked.

And as for the running game, don’t ask. With five sacks factored in, the Lions totaled 39 yards on the ground, on 37 attempts. Barkley, despite 205 all-purpose yards (some 48 fewer than his FBS-leading average entering the game), ran for 56 on 20 tries.

Part of that was IU’s hyper-aggressive scheme, one the Hoosiers had also used to good effect while limiting Barkley to 58 yards on 33 carries in 2016. But the bigger factor appeared to be a leaky offensive line.

“There were hiccups here and there today,” said left tackle Ryan Bates, an Archbishop Wood graduate. “We ran some runs (against) different blitzes and different fronts that didn’t work out great. There’s always room for improvement, and we can get better, obviously.”

The Lions started their fourth different line combination of the season, with redshirt freshman Will Fries getting his first start at right tackle after playing the bulk of last week’s game at that position. Chasz Wright, the starter the first three weeks, also saw action, after missing the Iowa game with an undisclosed injury. But Andrew Nelson, who opened against the Hawkeyes, did not dress; he has battled knee problems throughout his career.

The rest of the group — Bates, left guard Steven Gonzalez, center Connor McGovern and right guard Brendan Mahon — is well-seasoned, and figures to get better. It will have to, given the front sevens Michigan and Ohio State will present.

As for Saturday, Bates said he and his linemates were “satisfied,” if only because they won. At the same time, he added, “There’s definitely kind of a bad taste in our mouths because we know what we can do, and how we can do it, and we’re better than how we played today.”

Absent a running game, PSU found other avenues to success. The defense and special teams excelled. Trace McSorley threw for 315 yards. DaeSean Hamilton caught nine balls for 122 and three touchdowns, becoming the school’s all-time leading receiver in the process.

And Barkley provided his own special flair, as when he made a one-handed grab of a first-quarter swing pass and turned it into a gain of 36. He also threw a 16-yard TD pass to Hamilton, albeit with 4:13 left and PSU up 24 — a curious strategic decision, to say the least.

“He’s got so many tools in his toolbox,” Franklin said, “and every week for us, it’s how do we take advantage of them, to give our defense and our opponents issues.”

It also figures to give Heisman voters a viable option down the road.

“I say it so many times: I don’t care about the Heisman award,” Barkley said, before amending that slightly. “Obviously I care because I’m competitive, and I want to be the best and I would love to try to 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 its standards and continuing to be the best I can be.”

On cleaning things up, in other words. It’s a dirty job, and given what lies ahead, somebody’s got to do it.

Penn State adds to its bragging rights over Temple

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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

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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."