Northwestern

No. 4 Penn State-Northwestern observations: Slow start, big finish for Barkley

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No. 4 Penn State-Northwestern observations: Slow start, big finish for Barkley

BOX SCORE

EVANSTON, Ill. — Northwestern was determined to keep Saquon Barkley from deciding the game Saturday and, for a while, it worked.

That was just fine by Trace McSorley and the Penn State defense.

McSorley threw for 245 yards and a touchdown and ran in another while the No. 4 Nittany Lions had three takeaways in a 31-7 win over the Wildcats. 

Penn State (6-0, 3-0 Big Ten) ended Northwestern’s first two drives with turnovers — an Armani Oruwariye pick deep in his own territory and Kevin Givens’ fumble recovery — before the offense got on track. McSorley found backup QB Tommy Stevens for a 10-yard touchdown midway through the second quarter for a 10-0 halftime lead. 

The Lions forced three-and-outs on Northwestern’s first two drives of the second half and didn’t allow the Wildcats into the end zone until the final two minutes of the game.

McSorley was 25 for 35 before coach James Franklin pulled him late in the game and Barkley, who came into the game with four games of 200 or more all-purpose yards, didn’t fill the stat sheet in his usual fashion but added a pair of touchdown runs in the third quarter to turn the game into a rout.

Northwestern, playing its Big Ten home opener, fell to 2-3 and 0-2 in the conference.

• Penn State got its third and final turnover of the first half when Christian Campbell snared Clayton Thorson’s heave at the goal line. The Northwestern quarterback was sacked three times in the opening half, including a hit by Shaka Toney that forced the fumble late in the first quarter.

Thorson ended the day 19 for 36 for 142 yards and was sacked four times. 

• Barkley had just four net yards after his first 12 carries but made run No. 13 more than lucky. He found a hole late in the third quarter and dashed untouched for a 53-yard touchdown to give the Nittany Lions a 24-0 lead and turn the game into a rout. 

He got his first touchdown earlier in the third on a one-yard dive over the goal line and finished the game with 75 yards on 16 carries and a pair of catches for nine yards.

• McSorley took a glancing shot to the head from Northwestern linebacker Paddy Fisher after a third-quarter pass but was not injured. Fisher was flagged for roughing and ejected after a replay review confirmed the initial call of targeting.

Wildcats safety Godwin Igwebuike was sent off in the fourth quarter after officials flagged him for targeting running back Miles Sanders with his helmet. McSorley scored on a five-yard keeper two plays later.

• Those weren’t the only penalties that greatly helped Penn State extend drives. A pass interference call put the ball at the Northwestern 6 and led to the Lions’ first points, a 21-yard Tyler Davis field goal. 

Davis missed a 35-yard attempt late in the game.

• Penn State’s first drive ended when McSorley couldn’t leg out a fourth-down conversion, then the Lions allowed Northwestern to extend the ensuing drive with a 24-yard fourth-down pass. The Wildcats had a first down at the Lions’ 10, but a holding penalty, Curtis Cothran’s sack and Oruwariye’s interception left the hosts with nothing to show on the scoreboard.

It was the deepest the Wildcats drove all afternoon.

• Penn State almost had its second conference road shutout in less than a year. The Lions blanked Rutgers 39-0 on Nov. 19.

• It should be a happy film session when the Nittany Lions return home: They committed just two penalties — a pair of holding calls after Northwestern punts — while the outcome was in doubt. The drive that followed Penn State’s first yellow flag ended with McSorley’s first touchdown pass.

• The Lions’ third penalty didn’t come until midway through the final period but did prove costly. A holding call negated DeAndre Thompkins’ 74-yard punt return for a touchdown.

• The Big Ten leaders in scoring defense (9.0 points per game) still have not allowed a first-quarter touchdown this season. Northwestern’s only score came with 1:54 to play, long after both teams rested their starters.

• Initial forecasts called for persistent rain Saturday but it never played a factor. The field was damp, but far from soggy at kickoff and showers held off until the final whistle.

• The Lions take a week off before beginning a stretch of games that should decide whether they’ll keep the Big Ten East division title. They welcome No. 7 Michigan to Happy Valley on Oct. 21 seeking to erase memories of last season’s 49-10 loss and snap a three-game losing streak against the Wolverines.

Penn State visits 10th-ranked Ohio State a week later. 

No. 4 Penn State at Northwestern: Trying to stay perfect before facing the big boys

No. 4 Penn State at Northwestern: Trying to stay perfect before facing the big boys

No. 4 Penn State (5-0, 2-0 Big Ten) at Northwestern (2-2, 0-1 Big Ten)
Ryan Field, Evanston, Illinois
Saturday, noon, ABC

Scouting Penn State
The fourth-ranked Nittany Lions drubbed Indiana, 45-14, last week, as Saquon Barkley returned the opening kickoff 98 yards for a touchdown, helping PSU establish a 28-0 first-quarter lead. Barkley, tops in the FBS in all-purpose yards per game (243.6), had 205 in the game. The Lions, however, managed just 39 yards on the ground on 37 attempts, and are seventh in the Big Ten in rushing yards per game (179.0). They also allowed five sacks last week and have surrendered 11 to date, putting them in the middle of the conference pack in that department. Right tackle has been the trouble spot. Chasz Wright and Andrew Nelson have been slowed by injuries, leaving the position in the hands of redshirt freshman Will Fries, who began the season as the backup on the left side. 

Scouting Northwestern
The Wildcats, down 31-10 with 9:54 left in last week’s game at Wisconsin, cut the gap to seven but could get no closer in a 33-24 loss. Clayton Thorson threw for 219 yards and three touchdowns, but he was intercepted twice and sacked for a safety late in the game, sealing the verdict. Star running back Justin Jackson, who rushed for 1,524 yards last year but has picked up just 273 (4.3 per carry) this fall, left the game with a leg injury but is expected to play this week. Linebacker Paddy Fisher has 37 tackles and safety Godwin Igwbuike has contributed 29, as well as an interception. The Wildcats are, however, 10th in the Big Ten in points allowed (25.3), 11th in yards allowed (384.3) and 11th in rushing yards allowed (145.0).

History
Penn State leads the all-time series, 13-5, but the Wildcats have won the last two meetings, in 2014 and ’15. PSU coach James Franklin is, in fact, 0-3 against Northwestern, having also dropped a meeting while the head man at Vanderbilt. 

Storyline to watch
The weather. Rain is in the forecast today in Evanston, and that could serve as something of an equalizer.

What's at stake
The Lions are looking to keep their ducks in a row heading into their bye week, with games against Michigan, Ohio State and Michigan State to follow.

Prediction
Penn State 28, Northwestern 16

NCAA Tournament Wrap: Northwestern wins first-ever tournament game

NCAA Tournament Wrap: Northwestern wins first-ever tournament game

SALT LAKE CITY -- Northwestern got its first-ever NCAA Tournament victory, 68-66 over Vanderbilt, after Commodores guard Matthew Fisher-Davis inexplicably grabbed Wildcats guard Bryant McIntosh on purpose, sending McIntosh to the free throw line for the go-ahead points with 15 seconds left.

Riley LaChance made a layup with 18 seconds remaining in Thursday's game to put the ninth-seeded Commodores up by one after trailing by as many as 15.

But seconds after the in-bounds pass, Fisher-Davis reached out and grabbed McIntosh while he was in the backcourt. That put eighth-seeded Northwestern in the double bonus, and McIntosh went to the line and calmly swished the free throws with 15 seconds left.

LaChance missed a 3 on the next possession and eighth-seeded Northwestern (24-11) got another free throw (see full recap).

11-seed Xavier upends 6-seed Maryland 76-65 in NCAA tourney
ORLANDO, Fla. -- Trevon Bluiett scored 21 points and Sean O'Mara had 18 to help No. 11 seed Xavier upset sixth-seeded Maryland 76-65 during the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Thursday night.

The Musketeers move on in the West region, marking the third straight year they have advanced to the second round. Maryland, which has started three freshmen for much the season, lost in the first round for the first time since 1997.

After a slow start, Bluiett came through with 18 second-half points to help the Musketeers rally from an early 6-point deficit. Bluiett converted seven field goals, including five 3-pointers to energize Xavier.

Freshman Kevin Huerter led the Terps with 19 points while star guard Melo Trimble had 13 points, but made only one-third of his shots (see full recap) .

Middle Tennessee takes down Big Ten's Minnesota 81-72
MILWAUKEE -- Reggie Upshaw scored 19 points, Giddy Potts added 15 and Middle Tennessee took down another Big Ten team in the NCAA Tournament, beating Minnesota 81-72 on Thursday.

Twelfth-seeded Middle Tennessee proved it was no one-year wonder after upsetting Michigan State as a No. 15 seed last March.

The Blue Raiders (31-4) instead played like seasoned NCAA veterans with the way they held off the Gophers' comeback attempt from a 17-point deficit in front of a loud and large contingent of Minnesota fans.

Upshaw responded with seven straight points, including a 3-pointer and a reverse layup during a 7-3 run to help give Middle Tennessee a 10-point lead with 3:40 left.

Coach Kermit Davis' club will move on to face No. 4 seed Butler in the second round on Saturday (see full recap).

No. 3 Florida State defeats No. 11 FGCU, 86-80
ORLANDO, Fla. -- Dwayne Bacon scored 25 points and Jonathan Isaac added 17 points and 10 rebounds to help the third-seeded Florida State Seminoles hold off No. 14 Florida Gulf Coast 86-80 in the first round of the NCAA Tournament late Thursday night.

The Seminoles (26-8), making their first appearance since 2012 in the NCAAs, advanced on in the West Region.

The Eagles (26-8) saw their tournament hopes end in the first round for the second straight year. But FGCU made it interesting in the waning moments as the Seminoles let a sizeable lead slip away because of missed free throws and untimely fouls. Isaac and Xavier Rathan-Mayes made enough plays down the stretch to not allow the lead to slip completely away.

In a game that was defined by athletic play and exciting shots on both ends, it was Florida State that was able to deliver more often in a game that was close down the stretch. The Seminoles had the size and athleticism advantage, which made it difficult for the Eagles to get to the paint (see full recap).

Notre Dame hangs on to beat Princeton 60-58
BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Bonzie Colson scored 18 points and Notre Dame survived a first-round NCAA Tournament scare by pulling out a 60-58 win over Princeton.

The West Region's 12th-seeded Tigers had a chance to pull ahead on their final possession, but Devin Cannady missed an open 3-pointer just before the final horn. Notre Dame's Steve Vasturia pulled down the rebound and was fouled.

The Fighting Irish (26-9) nearly squandered an 11-point second half lead. Guard Matt Farrell scored 16 points, but missed the front end of a one-and-one with Notre Dame up 59-58.

Spencer Weisz led the Tigers with 15 points. The Ivy League champion Tigers (23-7) had a 19-game winning streak going into the NCAA Tournament (see full recap).