STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — Saquon Barkley collected 224 all-purpose yards and three touchdowns as No. 10 Penn State battered Nebraska, 56-44, Saturday afternoon in its final home game of the season.
Barkley, slowed in recent weeks after a strong start to the season, rushed 17 times for 158 yards and three scores, and caught six passes for 66 yards, helping the Lions improve to 9-2.
PSU, which closes out the regular season next week at Maryland, generated its most points since it put up 63 against Illinois in 2005.
Trace McSorley clicked on 24 of 36 passes for 325 yards and three scores, two to tight end Mike Gesicki. McSorley also rushed nine times for 46 yards and a TD.
Barkley, who rushed 14 times for 142 yards and three scores in the first half, surpassed 1,000 yards on the ground for the third straight season, just the second player in school history to do that.
He also broke PSU’s all-time record for rushing touchdowns. He now has 39, one more than Lydell Mitchell, the previous record-holder.
McSorley went 18-of-28 for 259 yards and two TDs in the first half when the Lions built a 42-10 lead.
Nebraska fell to 4-7.
• Barkley had managed just 142 yards on 49 carries in his three previous games, but he broke off a 65-yard touchdown run 57 seconds into the game, and by the end of the first quarter had piled up 111 yards on the ground. On a related note, Nebraska entered the game last in the Big Ten in rushing defense (200.1 yards per game).
• The first touchdown came on a run to the left, and the Nittany Lions had repeated success running in that direction behind guard Steven Gonzalez and tackle Will Fries.
• Nebraska took advantage of two Penn State special-teams breakdowns to take a 10-7 lead later in the first quarter. A short punt by the Huskers’ Caleb Lightbourn bounced off the Lions’ Zech McPhearson and was recovered by Marquel Dismuke, setting up Drew Brown’s 28-yard field goal. Then, with PSU backed up at its own 18, Blake Gillikin’s 18-yard punt gave Nebraska the ball at the Penn State 36. Tanner Lee’s completions of 17 yards to JD Spielman and 18 yards to Stanley Morgan Jr. set up a one-yard TD run by Devine Ozigbo.
• The Nittany Lions answered with touchdowns on their next five possessions, all of them on drives that consumed at least 65 yards, to take command. First McSorley’s 43-yard pass to Juwan Johnson led to Barkley’s 1-yard plunge, putting PSU ahead to stay at 14-10. Then Barkley jumpstarted an eight-play, 85-yard march with a 30-yard run — a drive that also included McSorley’s 22-yard pass to Saeed Blacknall on 3rd-and-10 — and McSorley ended it with a nine-yard run. McSorley later threw TD passes to Gesicki and DeAndre Thompkins covering 9 and 15 yards, respectively, and Barkley powered eight yards to the end zone.
• The Lions, whose point total was their highest in a first half since they put up 56 at Illinois in 2005, owned a 439-77 yardage advantage at that point.
• Nebraska cut the gap to 42-24 with two third-quarter touchdowns, on a 24-yard run by Mikale Wilbon and Lee’s 22-yard pass to De’Mornay Pierson-El, but McSorley found Gesicki for a 17-yard TD just over a minute into the fourth quarter, and backup quarterback Tommy Stevens later hit Nick Bowers for a 15-yard score.
• The Huskers added three TDs in the final 6:32, on Lee's eight-yard pass to Morgan, Wilbon's one-yard run and Lee's three-yard pass to Jack Stoll. The latter came on the game's final play.
• Lee, who threw for 399 yards, started despite suffering a head injury in last week’s loss to Minnesota, which resulted in his placement in the concussion protocol.
• Gesicki finished with four catches for 47 yards and two scores. His 1,376 career receiving yards are an all-time record for a PSU tight end, eclipsing the previous mark of 1,343, set by Ted Kwalick (1966-68). Gesicki's 13 career TDs are also a record for someone at his position.
• Juwan Johnson had five catches for 105 yards, the first 100-yard receiving game of his career.
• Penn State was again without offensive tackle Ryan Bates and defensive end Ryan Buchholz, each of whom missed their third straight game with a leg injury. Both were injured in the Oct. 28 loss at Ohio State. The Lions were also without linebacker Manny Bowen for the second straight week. He violated a team rule, according to coach James Franklin.
• The announced attendance was 106,722, despite intermittent showers.