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

BOX SCORE

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 commit arrested for armed robbery of Wawa

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AP Images

Penn State commit arrested for armed robbery of Wawa

This post appeared on College Football Talk on Saturday

Or will that be former Penn State recruit?

According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, Isheem Young was one of three individuals arrested Friday in connection with the armed robbery of a Wawa convenience store in South Philadelphia this past summer. One of the two alleged accomplices is Young’s brother, the manager of the store that was robbed, while the other an unnamed getaway driver.

The Inquirer reports that the 18-year-old Young is facing charges of robbery, conspiracy, firearms violations and related offenses. He is currently being held in lieu of a $150,000 bond.

It’s alleged that Young and his partners in crime made off with $13,600 in cash from the store’s safe. A police report stated that Young entered the store armed with a black revolver and committed the robbery.

Young committed to play his college football at Penn State in mid-July; two weeks later is when he allegedly committed the crime. He was 17 years old when the incident happened.

A four-star 2018 recruit, he’s rated as the No. 12 safety in the country, the No. 5 player at any position in the state of Pennsylvania and the No. 151 player overall on 247Sports.com‘s composite board.

The new early-signing period for college football, incidentally, kicks off in less than three weeks.

Penn State can't get by Khalil Iverson, Wisconsin

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USA Today Images

Penn State can't get by Khalil Iverson, Wisconsin

BOX SCORE

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- The last 48 hours weren't easy for the Wisconsin Badgers who had all day Sunday plus a long flight into Happy Valley on Monday to stew over their worst home loss in nearly a decade.

Penn State nearly extended that misery, but a potential go-ahead 3-pointer by Tony Carr bounced off the rim with two seconds to play and the Badgers held on for a 64-63 win.

"It's nice to see a bounce back and look like a Wisconsin team should look," Badgers coach Greg Gard said.

Khalil Iverson scored 14 of his 16 points in the first half, Nate Reuvers added 11 points and Ethan Happ grabbed 10 rebounds for the Badgers (4-5, 1-1 Big Ten), who snapped a two-game losing streak.

Mike Watkins scored a career-high 22 points for the Nittany Lions (7-3, 1-1 Big Ten) who battled back from a 17-point deficit with 9:40 to play. Carr added 16 points and Shep Garner made 13 for the Nittany Lions who were trying for their first 2-0 start in conference play since 2007.

Penn State played its third game, and first at home, in six days and struggled to shoot the ball for most of the night. The Nittany Lions made just 9 of 26 field goals in the first half, trailed 31-25 at halftime and were just 3-for-21 over the final 1:50 of the first and the first 10 minutes of the second.

"We dug a little deeper because we looked very sluggish in the first half," Penn State coach Patrick Chambers said.

The Badgers led 51-36 with 9:40 to play, but Garner drained back-to-back jumpers shortly thereafter to spark a 21-9 run that cut Wisconsin's lead to 60-57 with 1:53 left.

A pair of Garner free throws with less than a minute to play made it a one-point game before the teams traded free throws over the final 43 seconds. D'Mitrik Trice closed it out at the line on 4-of-4 shooting for the Badgers.

"I knew we'd have to be really dialed-in and gritty and persevere," Gard said. "I expected the whole game to be like the last four minutes and fortunately we were able to make enough plays and get enough stops to hang on."

Built Ford tough
Carr got his shot after forward Aleem Ford bounced the game's final free throw off the rim on the other end of the floor. He didn't get another chance thanks in part to Ford's hustle to get back on defense.

When Carr's shot rang off the rim, it took a bounce toward a Penn State player in the corner. Ford grabbed hold of the ball to force a jump ball and prevent the Nittany Lions from getting any kind of chance.

Ford's late recovery came in the absence of usual post presences Happ and Davison, who both had fouled out.

"He really hustled for that loose ball," Gard said. "There were a lot of winning plays, so to speak that were made. "We need to make better decisions down the stretch so that it doesn't get to that point."

Trusting Carr
Chambers had no issue with Carr, who was just 5-for-22 from the field, pulling up for the final 3-pointer even though Penn State's crafty point guard might've had room toward the hoop.

The clock was ticking and Chambers trusts his leading scorer who entered the game with 20.6 points per game, 39 assists and 19-for-32 from 3-point range.

"Whatever Tony thought," Chambers said. "I'm not in his vision. I'm on the sideline. I don't know what he saw but he's a heck of a player and he makes really good decisions. So I'm going to trust that decision."

Tough stats to swallow
Wisconsin's bench chipped in 25 points to Penn State's one.

Meanwhile, of Penn State's 29 misses, 11 were layups that didn't fall.

The big picture
Wisconsin: The Badgers are the only team to have played four ranked opponents so far and were tied or within a basket with two minutes left in three of those games. They looked better than their record inside the Bryce Jordan Center, matching Penn State's physical play throughout and frustrating Penn State's shooters all night.

Penn State: The Nittany Lions continue to play solid defense, but those stingy efforts will be for nothing if Penn State's shooters continue to miss like they did early and midway through against the Badgers. Penn State finished 26 for 50 from the floor.

Up next
Wisconsin concludes a three-day trip through the Keystone State at Temple (4-2) on Wednesday.

Penn State hosts George Washington (4-4) on Saturday.