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By Arielle Sargent, GoPSUSports.com
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State's road win on Saturday featured no shortage of resilient performances and gutsy plays as the Nittany Lions rallied past Indiana.
A quick glance at the score sheet from Saturday's win doesn't do Saquon Barkley's performance justice. With 58 yards on 33 carries and 98 all-purpose yards, one might argue that it was perhaps one of his least productive outings this year.
That's far from the case though, as Barkley opened the game grabbing a 32-yard catch from quarterback Trace McSorley on third-and-7 to set Penn State up for a touchdown on the opening drive.
While the Hoosier defense looked to bottle up his dynamic play, Barkley broke free for a 12-yard carry on the first attempt of Penn State's opening drive of the fourth quarter. Following McSorley's 54-yard pass to DaeSean Hamilton, Barkley was back at it. It didn't come easy though as he was pushed back for a loss of one before running in for the 4-yard touchdown.
With Indiana leading, 31-28, with nearly seven minutes to go, Barkley ran for 13 yards out to put Penn State on the Indiana 2-yard line before running in for the go-ahead touchdown.
"The only thing that kept going through my head was patience, patience and taking care of the ball and ball security," Barkley said. "As a running back not everything is going to go your way, they did a really good job with the game plan."
Barkley's 13 rushing touchdowns are the most for a Nittany Lions since Larry Johnson had 20 in 2002 and also rank eighth in Penn State program history. Barkley's 15 total touchdowns this year (13 rushing, 2 receiving) are ranked first in the Big Ten and ninth nationally, respectively.
He's also atop the Big Ten standings averaging 142.10 all-purpose yards in addition to 1,113 rushing yards and 111.3 rushing yards per game.
Explosive Plays When It Matters
McSorley enters the week atop the FBS standings in passing yards per completion, averaging 15.93 ypc. On the year, McSorley has completed 40 passes for at least 20 yards, including six against the Hoosiers.
As Penn State struggled with its run game against the Hoosiers, Franklin noted postgame that he was pleased with the poise of the offense in long yardage situations.
"I thought the most important thing we did was, we didn't panic, our defense kept us in the game so we didn't have to get in a situation where we are chucking it every down," Franklin said. "It was a gutsy, gutsy win on the road."
Defense Does It Again
As Franklin noted, Penn State's defense remained calm and confident under pressure. Penn State's rejuvenated linebacker unit combined for 1.5 sacks, highlighted by Brandon Bell's fourth-quarter sack that led to Indiana's fifth fumble of the day before defensive end Torrence Brown scooped up the loose ball for the 9-yard touchdown.
Perhaps one of the most pivotal defensive plays came in the third quarter, where Indiana intercepted a McSorley pass before driving to the 1-yard line. With the Hoosiers leading 17-14 on fourth-and-goal, a diving Brandon Smith broke up Indiana quarterback Richard Lagow's pass intended for Nick Westbrook in the end zone.
Quick Look At Rutgers
Penn State travels to Rutgers for its second consecutive week on the road. The Nittany Lions square off against the Scarlet Knights in their third night game of the season, with kickoff set for 8 p.m. on BTN. With Penn State on a six-game winning streak, Rutgers enters the matchup looking to snap its seven-game skid.
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -
Following the win on the road at Indiana, Penn State football head coach
James Franklin addressed the team in the locker room with one message - that
the Nittany Lions had once again found a way to win.
"We're a young team who's growing every single week and we find ways to win. All different ways. You look at our entire season - each win has been different, but we found a way to do it."
Looking at Penn State's six-game winning streak, the Nittany Lions have battled back from double figures not once, not twice, but three times after the Indiana comeback. The Nittany Lions engineered a 10-point comeback with an overtime victory against Minnesota before rallying from behind by 14 points in the thrilling victory against then-No. 2 Ohio State.
Sparked by wide receiver Chris Godwin's 21-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Trace McSorley at the end of the third quarter, the Nittany Lions outscored the Hoosiers 31-7 in a span of 16:09 on the way to a third double figure comeback this season. No other Penn State squad has battled back three times from a double-digit deficit in a single season since at least 1970.
The will to win and the desire to persevere are all things McSorley said are simply engrained in the mindset of the team this year, as he also gave credit to the leaders on the team for their ability to set the tone for belief under pressure.
"Just that mentality that this team has, that never say die, never quit attitude that's the biggest thing," McSorley said. "Yeah we were down 10, we've been down by double-digits multiple times late in games, but there's never that feeling like we can't come back from this."
On a six-game winning streak, the Nittany Lions have tallied the most consecutive Big Ten victories in the same season since 1994.
Check out a few more takeaways from the 45-31 win on the road at Indiana.
McSorley's Resilient Performance
Quarterback Trace McSorley turned in a gutsy performance Saturday completing 16-of-30 attempts for 332 passing yards, marking his third 300-yard passing performance, which ranks fourth in program history.
McSorley opened the game with a 10-yard rushing touchdown to give the Nittany Lions their third consecutive score on the opening drive.
McSorley dazzled in the second half with a few long yardage plays through the air in the clutch, including a 43-yard pass to Saeed Blacknall to set up the 21-yard touchdown grab from Godwin in the third quarter.
McSorley has scored a rushing touchdown and a has thrown for a score in six games this season. Only Louisville quarterback and Heisman contender Lamar Jackson has accomplished the feat more frequently this season (8 times).
"I wanted him to take a knee a couple of times so we could make a substitution and he kind of waved me off," Franklin said. "He hobbled down the field. He is tough, he is smart, he is resilient, he's a playmaker."
McSorley was at it again in the fourth quarter, targeting wide receiver DaeSean Hamilton on a perfect executed flea-flicker to set the Nittany Lions up for a 4-yard touchdown run from Saquon Barkley to bring Penn State ahead, 28-24.
Taking Advantage of Turnovers
Penn State took advantage of five Indiana turnovers, marking the most opponent miscues since last year's Maryland game.
The Nittany Lions recovered all five Indiana fumbles, converting two into touchdowns. Adding to the comeback, defensive end Torrence Brown picked up his third career fumble in the fourth quarter, returning it nine yards for his first career touchdown.
Check in with the Nittany Lions for updates following the win.
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State football head coach James Franklin met with the media following the Nittany Lion road win at Indiana.
Full press conference below.
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - No. 12/14 Penn State hits the road this week, traveling to Indiana to take on the Hoosiers Saturday at Memorial Stadium.
On the road for the second time in the last three weeks, the Nittany Lions (7-2, 5-1) and the Hoosiers (5-4, 3-3) are set for a noon kickoff on ABC or ESPN2. For a full TV coverage map, please click here.
Last week, the Nittany Lions extended their winning streak to five straight, downing Iowa, 41-14, in Beaver Stadium. Penn State broke into the College Football Playoff Rankings Top 10 at No. 10 in this week's release. The Nittany Lions also rose to No. 12 in the Associated Press Poll and No. 14 in the USA Today Coaches Poll.
The Penn State offense was both productive and explosive against the Hawkeyes, combining for 599 yards of total offense, including 359 yards on the ground.
Running back Saquon Barkley powered the Penn State offense with 211 all-purpose yards, scoring both of his touchdowns on plays of at least 44 yards or more, highlighted by a 57-yard touchdown run.
Defensively, Penn State has proven stout in its ability to halt the ground game, holding Iowa to just 30 rushing yards. In the last two games, the Nittany Lions have limited back-to-back Big Ten opponents to less than 50 yards for the first time in program history. It's also the first time since 2014 that Penn State's defense has held three opponents to less than 50 rushing yards in the same season.
Led by sixth year head coach Kevin Wilson, Indiana enters the week fresh off of a 33-27 win against Rutgers. The Hoosiers recorded 550 yards of total offense in the win, registering 420 passing yards and 147 yards on the ground. In a 42-36 win against Maryland the week before, IU totaled 650 yards of total offense, including 414 rushing yards.
"The biggest thing with Indiana is they're doing a lot of things well, they're putting up a lot of yards and they're putting up a lot of points so we just have to limit them and do our best on defense," junior Garrett Sickels said.
Penn State holds an 18-1 advantage in the all-time series against the Hoosiers, including a 9-1 record when playing on the road at IU. The Nittany Lions visit Indiana for the first time since 2014, where Penn State claimed a 13-7 victory.
What to Watch For: Penn State
1. In the last five games, Saquon Barkley has continued to prove why he is one of the most dynamic and explosive running backs in college football, rushing for 738 yards with an average of 7.3 yards per carry and two 200-yard rushing performances within the stretch. With at least one rushing touchdown in four of the last five games, Barkley's 11 rushing touchdowns ranks second in the conference standings. He's also atop the conference standings in all-purpose yards (147.67), rushing yards (1,055) and rushing yards per game (117.2).
2. When asked about his success in the run game, Barkley is quick to direct all credit to the Nittany Lion offensive line. Penn State head coach James Franklin noted earlier this week that he has been truly impressed with the offensive line's ability to adapt to unexpected changes, while paving the way for success in the run game.
"The fact that we're able to establish a run game and get people to commit to the box - and obviously Saquon's a big part of that, but it opens all those things up," Franklin said. "It opens up opportunities down the field when people are concerned about stopping Saquon and our offensive line has been able to establish the run and protect our quarterback."
3. Turnovers are another area where the Nittany Lions have seen tremendous improvement this season. In the last five games, Penn State has committed just one offensive turnover, while also turning each of the last five opponent miscues into touchdowns. The turnover success marks the first time since 2012 that the Nittany Lions have played at least three turnover-free games.
What to Watch For: Indiana
1. Earlier this week, Franklin tabbed Wilson as one of the best offensive minds in college football. Averaging 298.1 yards per game, the Indiana passing offense is ranked second in the conference and 22nd nationally. Among several options at wide receiver for the Hoosiers, Nick Westbrook (17.27) and Ricky Jones (17.03) are both ranked among the top six in the conference in average yards per catch at fourth and sixth, respectively. Quarterback Richard Lagow also ranks second in the conference with 2,574 passing yards, averaging 286.0 per game.
2. Four of Indiana's five scoring drives in the win against Rutgers resulted in the scoring play measuring at least 34 yards, highlighted by backup quarterback Zander Diamont's 59-yard touchdown rush on the first Hoosier possession of the game. With three rushing touchdowns on the year, Diamont is averaging 47.8 yards per game, as well as 8.3 yards per carry.
3. Indiana's limiting its opponents to 225.8 passing yards per game, with defensive back Rashard Fant's 16 passes defended and 15 pass breakups slotted first nationally. The success has not only been in the secondary, as the Indiana defense as a whole has registered 10 sacks and 28 tackles for loss across the last three games. Linebacker Tegray Scales is leading the team with 85 tackles, averaging 9.4 per game, which ranks second in the conference standings.
The Final Word -
While Penn State owns a sizable advantage in the all-time series against Indiana, there has been no shortage of close calls for the Nittany Lions along the way, especially on the road in Bloomington. Four of the last five outings on the road at Indiana have been decided by six points or less. That includes the most recent meeting at Indiana, when Penn State captured a 13-7 win at Memorial Stadium.
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State football special teams coordinator and running backs coach Charles Huff spent time speaking with members of the media this afternoon.
The No. 12/14 Nittany Lions travel to Indiana to take on the Hoosiers Saturday, Nov. 11 at noon on ABC or ESPN2.
Check out updates from the Q&A session below.
On the improvement of
Penn State's special teams unit
Huff: We've gotten better. Obviously we're not anywhere near where we want to be or expect to be, but it's been part of the process. I know it's kind of the same old song and dance, you hear that it takes time, it takes time but, from year one we knew coming in under the circumstances that we were dealt, having depth issues and not being able to play everybody on special teams because of those depth issues and limitations. It starts by getting to play some of the other guys and as you continue to recruit and develop players you're able to get some of those developed players on special teams. When you get some of those better players and more depth and more options and more competition in practice, you see improvement.
The time that it takes is not always what you want, but we've made progress in each of the three years and I think the kids have done a really good job of buying in and staying committed to special teams and the things that we do and our core values that we stand on. It helps, as we get better we have more depth we've got some recruits in certain areas that have helped us. It's allowed us to play some of the older guys and some of the younger guys and kind of mix that in. It kind of all runs together. We still have a ways to go, but I'm impressed with where we are, I'm pleased with where we are and the effort that the coaches and the guys are putting in.
On recruiting athletes
and not just specialists, highlighted by Blake Gillikin chasing down the high
snap for a safety in the win against Ohio State.
Huff: That one play was huge. A lot of people over the course of the game - there was a lot that went on that was really good for the program. But if you think back on it, Ohio State missed an extra point. So then we give up the safety, but the safety only counts as one point at that time. The hidden yardage or the hidden parts of the game, a lot of people don't see that. Now if you give up a touchdown, that's five points, that's totally different. Being able to have an athlete, it's not what you want, you don't want him actually running behind trying to pick up a ball. But having an athlete that understands, okay, not only do I need to get back to get this ball, but I need to fall on it. I actually prefer him to kick it out of the end zone but when you have an athlete where when in the game certain things don't always got the way you planned or maybe not exactly what you said is going to happen - they don't panic in those situations. They allow themselves to still be in the moment, still be able to play and what happens is, you take a bad play and you don't let it become a catastrophe.
So when we're recruiting, we're looking for guys who have played the game of football and understand. I'm not saying that those young men who just kick or do some other things aren't valuable, but it helps when you have an awareness, a smarter player is a better player. So if they understand the game and the importance of certain things and why we're asking them to do things, Blake's been really good for us because Blake understands the game so he is able to give input. He is able to say, this is what I can do with the wind this way, this is where I feel more comfortable, and that helps. The last few years we haven't always had that experience and like Coach [Franklin] talks about, when guys have been athletes and played the game. So when things don't always go perfect, they are a little limited in what they can do, and that helps.
Those types of plays, those types of games - there are moments in program history here, there are moments in program history across the country that change or define the culture and that game, those special teams plays in that game, really defined our special teams culture of when everybody comes together, everybody is bought in, when you're taking the coaching and listening to every meeting. We had 400-some meetings about what happens if the ball goes over the punter's head. If you're just kind of sitting in the meeting and you're like ok here we go and it comes up, well we just had 400 meetings about where the block spot is on field goals. Those guys have been trying to get there, trying to get there and then Marcus [Allen] gets there. You're always looking for that defining moment if you're a teacher, that "aha" moment and I think that game and those types of plays were a good start to that.
On the youth and depth
at running back and how that impacts recruiting at the position.
Huff: As we talk to recruits, we tell them. The recruits that we are recruiting at the level that we should be at here at Penn State, all of their options are going to be deep, wherever they go. So it's not like we're the only ones that are deep. Alabama is deep, Clemson is deep. The schools that we are competing against and the options that they have, everywhere is deep because everywhere has been recruiting and they've been successful. So we tell them that it comes down to one - you have to be able to compete.
Then it comes down to the other factors, the academics, the relationship that you have with the coaches, the style of offense, distance from home, your family support system. All of those things. That's something a lot of people talk about, saying they have Saquon [Barkley], they have Miles [Sanders], and they have all these guys. Well, everywhere you go - I always talk to the recruits and I tell them that nobody really knew who Trent Richardson was Mark Ingram was there and nobody knew who Derrick Henry was when Mark Ingram was there. So you have those same guys, but you can still be successful if you go in with the right attitude. We always tell them that the best player is going to play. I tell them, I am hoping that we find a guy or there is a guy on our team right now, that forces us to start him over Saquon Barkley. That's what we want because that means you are that much better, which is going to make Saquon better, which is going to make the team better. That's the message that we give recruits. Wherever you go is going to be deep, so you better be ready to compete. Then you have to take everything else into account, what makes it the best spot for you.
On one big play that
stands out this year? Although not on special teams, specifically the 80-yard touchdown pass from Trace McSorley to Irvin Charles against
Huff: When you have those moments, obviously the crowd and the energy that gets infused into the stadium is huge. To me, as a coach and coaches, we always talk about how it takes one play, it takes one play. Well, its seldom the kids really grasp that fact and I think that play specifically, the Irvin Charles play, from multiple reasons and a few reasons - one, it was a time in the game where we needed a play. One, Irvin Charles had been a guy that has had flashes in practice of greatness. The team knows he can be great. He has made plays in practice where you just say wow. He hadn't been able to do it in a game for multiple reasons. The ball just hadn't gone his way, he hadn't made plays, but for him to get that play in the game, catch that ball and separate from the defenders like that, it was a combination of yes, we did it - but it was more of the team's love for Irvin and the stuff we see you do on a daily basis now the world knows. Those types of plays, to me, are the ones that give you the - we can come back from anything, we can play with anybody, all we have to do is make plays. As coaches, you harp on that and it takes those types of plays to give you some validity for the players to say, you're right. That was was of those types of plays. It was a moment in the game where we were stalling back and forth, back and forth and we needed a boost of energy as a team, we needed a boost of energy as an offense. For that to happen, for that connection of people - Trace to Irvin, to a guy who the team loves and they have seen him successful in practice, but needed that "in a game moment," that was huge.
On the most impressive
thing about Saquon Barkley this season.
Huff: For me, and I don't try to belittle his extraordinary runs by any means. We work on those drills all the time. He has done some amazing things. To me, some of the bigger things that you don't see - I thought earlier in the season he was pressing to try and make the big run and was doing a lot of extra cuts, trying to bounce things too much. We sat down probably around game two and looked at some things, talked through some things and he started to make that change to where he was taking what the defense was giving him, he was pressing the line of scrimmage, he was being physical and taking the two yards, running through the arm tackle for four yards and like I tell him, once you do those things once or twice, the 80-yard runs will come. The 60 yards, the 20 yards, the 200-yard games will come and he really received that.
A lot of times when you have a great freshman year, you come back and you don't have success early and you kind of get frustrated, and he did not. We talked about some of the things, that he was pressing a little too much, trying to do too much and showed him some areas where he could get four yards instead of losing a yard. I thought he started to do that after the Michigan game. Now you can kind of see where he has had some of those Saquon Barkley type of runs. To me, the ability for him to be patient and not get frustrated with not going out in the first game and running for 6,000 yards. It was a lot of build up and he didn't do that the first couple of games and he didn't get frustrated, he stuck to. He kept letting us coach him and he kept watching film and to me, his patience and growth through those first couple of games is probably the biggest thing and the best that I've seen.
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