Georgia State

After 56-0 blowout, No. 4 Penn State feels there's more to give as Big Ten play looms

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After 56-0 blowout, No. 4 Penn State feels there's more to give as Big Ten play looms

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — Saquon Barkley hung another masterpiece Saturday but were you to browse the rest of the gallery, you might have found scaffolding and half-completed pen-and-inks.

Because even at 3-0, even with a No. 4 national ranking, there is still a work-in-progress feel to this Penn State team.

Is that nitpicking? Is that the equivalent of searching for a smudge on the Mona Lisa?

Not at all. Not if you listen to the principals.

Barkley turned a nothing pass into an 85-yard work of art in the first quarter of Saturday’s 56-0 embarrassment of Georgia State. The junior running back is a transcendent player, a Heisman hopeful, a certain early NFL draft pick.

And while coach James Franklin thought his team played a complete game against the overmatched Panthers (something he also said after a season-opening 52-0 rout of Akron), he did raise some questions.

He said the Lions can be better along both lines — that they can do a better job running the ball and stopping the run, staples in any era. He might have added that his receiving corps could be a little more productive, his quarterback a little more consistent, his guys a little less dependent on Barkley.

And indeed they will have to be, with the Big Ten season now upon them. PSU opens at Iowa next Saturday night.

“We knew we were dangerous (coming into the season),” safety Marcus Allen said, “but I think we see we can be at an elite status and we can really be that elite team.”

And how do they get there?

“Hard work,” he said. “Hard work and dedication.”

Suffice it to say, then, that the non-conference portion of their season was a starting point, that they applied the first brush strokes to their self-portrait.

“This is probably our best week of preparation, our most complete week,” quarterback Trace McSorley said.

And, he added, it is “a huge thing” to have that at this point.

Now the Lions just have to repeat it nine more times if they are to repeat as Big Ten champion.

McSorley was admittedly displeased with his play in last Saturday’s 33-14 victory over Pitt and spent the practice week smoothing out his mechanics. The result was an 18-for-23, 309-yard, four-touchdown performance. He also ran for a score.

He still appears to be working things out with a revamped receiving corps, which, since last season, has lost its best wideout, Chris Godwin, to the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Juwan Johnson is still finding his way after a strong offseason. DeAndre Thompkins has made more of an impact as a punt returner. Saeed Blacknall, the hero of last year’s Big Ten championship game, registered his first catches of the fall (including a TD) Saturday.

And so on.

At least tight end Mike Gesicki is still around, and Barkley always seems to be everywhere McSorley needs him to be.

Which brings us to the 85-yard play. With PSU up 7-0 and facing 3rd-and-12 from its own 15, McSorley rolled right. Barkley was just a few yards in front of him and looking back at his QB, but for some reason, slid in the opposite direction, from the right flat to the left.

“It was kind of just a feel,” Barkley said. “I kind of thought that Trace was going to lose me and that me sliding would help.”

McSorley wound up firing a five-yard pass across his body to Barkley, and then the fun began. He juked one guy, outran just about everybody else down the sideline, cut back, picked up a block from wide receiver Brandon Polk and, before long, was standing in the end zone.

Asked to explain all that, Barkley said, “It just happens naturally. It’s kind of a reaction.”

Franklin reacted by saying that he “can’t imagine there is a more explosive, dangerous player in space” than Barkley, and added that his star was almost as excited about backup Nick Eury getting a carry late in the game as he was his own play.

“He is a special guy in a lot of different ways,” Franklin said. “I stopped being surprised or amazed a while ago with him.”

Barkley, who played two and a half quarters, finished with 226 all-purpose yards — 142 on four receptions, 47 on 10 rushes and a 37-yard kickoff return. He also believes he has more to provide.

“I feel faster (than in past years),” he said, “but I still feel like there’s room to improve. I feel like I can find a way to get another gear.”

The team as a whole will need to do that, too.

It’s the only way this season might end up being suitable for framing.

Trace McSorley leads No. 5 Penn State in rout of Georgia State

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Trace McSorley leads No. 5 Penn State in rout of Georgia State

BOX SCORE

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- All week, the usually unflappable Trace McSorley told himself, if he could settle his feet down, his arm would follow suit.

A week after Penn State's quarterback played his most uneven game in a while, bouncing on his toes and firing over his teammates heads, he had one of his best under Beaver Stadium's bright lights.

McSorley threw a stadium-record 85-yard touchdown pass to Saquon Barkley for one of his four scoring strikes and also ran for a touchdown in No. 5 Penn State's 56-0 victory over Georgia State 56-0 on Saturday night.

"That was something that was in my mind," McSorley said. "Last week, personally, I didn't put our team in the best position through my play to win the game. Obviously, we were able to come out with a win but I felt that I didn't put our team in the best position."

That's all he did against Georgia State (0-2) and he got off to a fast start.

McSorley completed 14 of 19 passes for 258 yards in the first half to help Penn State (3-0) take a 35-0 lead in a rare prime-time game against a non-Power Five opponent.

The junior quarterback finished 18 of 23 for 309 yards and running back Saquon Barkley had 226 all-purpose yards despite being sidelined for a stretch in the second quarter with a stomach bug.

Barkley returned to the game after a brief evaluation but wasn't needed much longer. Penn State rested most of its starters after scoring on its first drive of the second half.

"I thought Trace definitely threw the ball better," Penn State coach James Franklin said. "Saquon, he's just got so many tools. You're talking about a 230-pound guy that can make you miss, can run you over and can burst down the sideline."

Backup quarterback Tommy Stevens caught a touchdown pass and threw one, and DaeSean Hamilton, Brandon Polk and Saeed Blacknall added touchdown receptions for Penn State.

Miles Sanders ran one in while Barkley was being out, and Andre Robinson added a late rushing touchdown for Penn State.

Conner Manning completed 16 of 29 passes for 133 yards for Georgia State with three interceptions. The Panthers also lost two fumbles and Penn State turned all five turnovers into touchdowns.

Barkley's ominous tent visit
Penn State's sideline got a scare when Barkley signaled he needed a breather midway through the second quarter.

The Heisman candidate had just lowered his head on an inside run and was piled on by Panthers defenders. Although he popped up quick, Barkley walked slowly to the bench, sat down and hung his head for a bit before being shuffled into the team's nearby medical tent by the team's head athletic trainer.

Barkley emerged after a few minutes and returned to the game apparently no worse for wear. He said afterward he ate something before the game that didn't agree with him and was fine after a brief reprieve.

"It didn't really affect me in the game," Barkley said.

Brown down
Torrence Brown wasn't as lucky.

Penn State's starting defensive end suffered an apparent right knee injury and was carted off the field in the first quarter. Brown took a hard block low by Georgia State running back Kyler Neal and tried to get back to his feet before crumpling to the grass and grabbing for his knee.

Franklin didn't update Brown's status after the game.

Allen breaks a streak
One of Penn State's most experienced players, fourth-year starter Marcus Allen has watched as underclassmen have snagged interception after interception during his tenure.

Allen, who was without an interception before Saturday, said after the Pitt game that he felt his was coming. He snatched Manning' pass and returned it 50 yards to set up Penn State's fifth touchdown.

"I told my dad two days before the game, `Dad, I swear, I promise you I'm going to get an interception before I leave Penn State,'" Allen said. "It feels like my birthday."

The takeaway
Georgia State: The Panthers actually moved the ball at times early. They just couldn't move it anywhere close to scoring position. Hart was explosive most of the night and was able to get open. Manning has a quick release and was able to keep Penn State's pass rush at bay, but his accuracy needs to improve to keep his offense moving.

Penn State: The Nittany Lions continue to break big plays seemingly at will and their defense is thriving. With nearly three dozen players rotating in and out through the first three games, Penn State has allowed just one touchdown. With the conference opener looming, Penn State appears primed for another strong Big Ten run.

Up next
Georgia State hosts Charlotte.

Penn State travels to Iowa City to open Big Ten play.

No. 5 Penn State vs. Georgia State: Final tune-up before Big Ten opener

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CSN

No. 5 Penn State vs. Georgia State: Final tune-up before Big Ten opener

No. 5 Penn State (2-0, 0-0 Big Ten) vs. Georgia State (0-1, 0-0 Sun Belt)
Beaver Stadium, State College, Pennsylvania
Saturday, 7:30 p.m., Big Ten Network

Fifth-ranked Penn State hosts Georgia State in its final non-conference tune-up.

Scouting Penn State
The No. 5 Nittany Lions beat Pitt, 33-14, last week, as Saquon Barkley generated 183 all-purpose yards and two touchdowns, and Trace McSorley threw for three scores. Tight end Mike Gesicki caught two of those TD passes, and has scored four times in PSU’s first two games. The defense forced three turnovers and limited wide receiver Quadree Henderson, the Panthers’ biggest offensive threat, to 33 all-purpose yards; he had generated 201 in Pitt’s 2016 victory over the Lions. Safety Marcus Allen led the way with 12 tackles, one of which resulted in a safety, and cornerback Grant Haley contributed an interception and a sack.

Scouting Georgia State
The Panthers, idle last week, lost, 17-10, to Tennessee State in their opener, which was also their first game under new coach Shawn Elliott. Quarterback Conner Manning, who in 2016 completed 55.5 percent of his passes for 2,684 yards and 16 touchdowns (with 13 interceptions), departed that game with a head injury but later returned, and is expected to play this week. Wide receiver Penny Hart missed much of last season with a foot injury, but in 2015 caught 71 passes for 1,099 yards and eight touchdowns to earn Sun Belt Conference Freshman of the Year honors. GSU’s defense has allowed just two plays of 50 yards or more in its last 13 games.

History
First meeting.

Storyline to watch
The Panthers did push Wisconsin before losing, 23-17, last year in Madison, so PSU will have to show up. But barring complacency, the bigger issue for the Lions will be whether they can keep everybody healthy for next week’s Big Ten opener at Iowa.

What’s at stake
A payday for the Panthers.

Prediction
Penn State 55, Georgia State 7