NCAA Football

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

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AP Images

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."

Penn loses heartbreaker to Dartmouth as time expires in Ivy League opener

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Photo courtesy of Penn Athletics

Penn loses heartbreaker to Dartmouth as time expires in Ivy League opener

BOX SCORE

Jared Gerbino scored on a fourth-and-inches play as time ran out and Dartmouth shocked defending co-champion Penn 16-13 in the Ivy League opener Friday night.

Jack Heneghan and Gerbino, led the Big Green on a 15-play, 80-yard drive, opting to use Gerbino, the 230-pound backup quarterback, on the final play rather than attempt a tying field goal.

Heneghan converted a fourth-and-3 with a 5-yard pass to Emory Thompson near midfield and on the following third-and-4 Gerbino busted up the middle for a career-best 27 yards. Thompson followed with a sweep for 13 yards to the Penn 2.

Penn had taken the lead on a 27-yard field goal by Jack Soslow with 5:37 to play.

Heneghan was 23 of 31 for 199 yards and a 12-yard touchdown to Hunter Hagdorn in the second quarter. Gerbino picked up 71 yards on 11 carries and threw one incompletion.

Dartmouth (3-0) was 1-6 in the Ivy League last year.

The Quakers (2-1), who rushed for more than 300 yards in both their wins, had 85 yards on the ground. Karekin Brooks, who ran for 268 yards a week ago, was held to 47 yards on 14 carries.

Indiana at No. 4 Penn State: Nittany Lions seek best start in nearly a decade

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CSN

Indiana at No. 4 Penn State: Nittany Lions seek best start in nearly a decade

No. 4 Penn State (4-0, 1-0 Big Ten) vs. Indiana (2-1, 0-1 Big Ten)
Beaver Stadium, State College
Saturday, 3:30 p.m., Big Ten Network

Scouting Penn State
The fourth-ranked Nittany Lions (4-0) nipped Iowa 21-19 last week, when Trace McSorley hit wide receiver Juwan Johnson, a native of Glassboro, N.J., for a seven-yard touchdown as time expired. Running back Saquon Barkley, who leads the FBS with an average of 253.3 all-purpose yards per game, piled up a school-record 358 against the Hawkeyes, including 211 on the ground, on 28 attempts. He has rushed for 518 yards (7.8 per carry), and has 23 receptions for a Big Ten-leading 335 yards. Defensive end Shareef Miller, a Philadelphia native, leads the team with six tackles for loss, two sacks and two hurries. He recorded a safety last week against the Hawkeyes, while wearing No. 19 in honor of fellow end Torrence Brown, who has been lost for the season with a knee injury.

Scouting Indiana
Morgan Ellison ran 25 times for 186 yards and two touchdowns as the Hoosiers (2-1) beat Georgia Southern 52-17 last week. J-Shun Harris, who is third in the FBS with an average of 26.1 yards per punt return, also ran one back for a touchdown for the second straight week. The Hoosiers rested four starters in the game, and saw four regulars depart for health reasons, including starting quarterback Richard Lagow. Lagow is, however, expected to play this week. He has clicked on 58 percent of his passes, for 564 yards and four touchdowns, with three interceptions. His backup, Peyton Ramsey, has also played in all three games to date. Wide receiver Simmie Cobbs, who missed most of last season because of injury, has 18 catches. Linebacker Tegray Scales has 26 tackles.

History
The Lions lead the all-time series 19-1, and emerged with a 45-31 victory last year in Bloomington.

Storyline to watch
Indiana bottled up Barkley last year, limiting him to 58 yards on 33 attempts. The Lions nonetheless rallied from deficits of 24-14 and 31-28, as McSorley threw for 332 yards and two TDs. He also ran for a score.

What’s at stake?
PSU has not been 5-0 since 2008, when it shared the conference title.

Prediction
Penn State 42, Indiana 21