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Penn State Runs Past Rutgers, 28-3, in Big Ten Opener

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Beaver Stadium | University Park, Pa. | 103,323

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FINAL STATISTICS

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Freshman running back Saquon Barkley rushed for 195 yards and two touchdowns to lead Penn State past Rutgers, 28-3, in the Big Ten opener on a rainy Saturday night Beaver Stadium. The Nittany Lions took command of the game in the second quarter with three touchdowns in front a "Stripe Out" crowd of 103,323.

Penn State (2-1, 1-0 Big Ten) led Rutgers (1-2, 0-1 Big Ten) 21-0 at halftime and did not allow the Scarlet Knights to reach the red zone until doing so once in the fourth quarter, yielding a field goal. The three points allowed was the fewest for the Nittany Lions since 2011 against Iowa.

The Nittany Lion ground game keyed the offense totaling 330 of 471 total offensive yards, with 174 coming in the first half. It was the most yards gained on the ground for the Lions since 2009 when they totaled 338 and the first time they broke the 200-yard mark in consecutive games since the same year.

Barkley (Coplay, Pa.) posted his second consecutive game of more than 100 yards, finding the end zone twice and totaling his season-high 195 yards on 21 carries, the most yards for a PSU true freshman rusher since 1998 and the most for any PSU rusher since Bill Belton totaled 201 in 2013. Barkley was particularly strong in the second half, totaling 140 yards and a touchdown on 11 rushes.

Fellow running back Akeel Lynch (Toronto, Ontario) also broke 100 yards, totaling 120 on 10 carries, with nine carries and 115 yards coming in the first half, including a career-best 75-yard touchdown run. It was the first time Penn State had two 100-yard rushers in a game since Lynch and Belton accomplished the feat in 2013.

Penn State outgained Rutgers in total offense, 311-115, in the first half and finished with a 471-294 advantage for the night. The Nittany Lion defense forced Rutgers to punt on its first five possessions before sophomore cornerback Grant Haley (Atlanta, Ga.) hauled in an interception on the sixth and final Scarlet Knight drive of the first half.

Freshman cornerback John Reid (Mount Laurel, N.J.) hauled in his first interception and recovered a late fumble, as the Lions pulled in a season-high three turnovers. The Blue and White continued to penetrate the backfield as well, totaling 9.0 tackles for loss and 5.0 sacks. Defensive tackle Austin Johnson (Galloway, N.J.) led the team with 2.0 backfield stops, including a sack. Carl Nassib (West Chester, Pa.) continued his strong start, tallying his team-best fifth sack as part of 1.5 backfield tackles. Safety Marcus Allen (Upper Marlboro, Md.) led the team with 11 tackles, including seven solo stops.

The Nittany Lions came into the game tied for second in the nation with 11 TFL per game and now has 31 TFL in the first three games. Penn State also improved on its sack average per game with five tonight, after averaging four per game in the first two matchups.

Quarterback Christian Hackenberg (Palmyra, Va.) completed 10-of-19 passes with one interception for 141 yards, and was not sacked for a second consecutive game. His top target was DaeSean Hamilton (Fredericksburg, Va.), who totaled 81 yards on four catches in the first half, and finished with five for 86 yards. Chris Godwin (Middletown, Del.) also caught four passes, totaling 49 yards.

Rutgers quarterback Chris Laviano completed 27 of 42 passing attempts for 251 yards with two interceptions. Josh Hicks led the ground game with 49 yards, but the Scarlet Knights only totaled 43 for the game, the fewest Penn State had allowed since holding Maryland to 33 last season. Carlton Agudosi led 10 Rutgers pass catchers with six receptions for 80 yards.

After playing the field position game on its first two drives of the game, pinning Rutgers on its own 2- and 10-yard lines, respectively, with punts from Chris Gulla (Toms River, N.J.), the Penn State offense found the end zone on its third possession, driving 80 yards on 12 plays in a season-long six minutes, two seconds. Hackenberg found Godwin along the right sideline for a 30-yard gain on the first play, and then the Nittany Lions pounded the ball into the red zone with eight consecutive running plays. On 3rd-and-3 from the 17, Hackenberg found Hamilton for a 13-yard gain to the 4-yard line, setting up an end-around to redshirt freshman wide receiver DeAndre Thompkins (Hubert, N.C.) from two yards out for his first career touchdown with 12:10 remaining in the second quarter.

The Lions went three-and-out on their next possession, but scored on their next two.

Starting at the Penn State 10, the Lions drove 90 yards on eight plays for their longest drive of the season. Hackenberg found Hamilton with a short pass in the middle of the field that Hamilton was able to turn into a 48-yard gain to the Rutgers' 42. The Nittany Lions then handed off to Barkley on six of the next seven plays, and he capped the drive with a 15-yard touchdown run with 2:06 remaining in the half.

After another Rutgers' punt, Penn State took over on its own 25 with 1:14 on the clock. Lynch broke through a hole in the middle and ran 75 yards to the end zone.

Rutgers assembled the longest drive of the scoreless third quarter, advancing 54 yards on seven plays before Reid ended it with his first career interception.

Rutgers reached the red zone for the first time with just under 12 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, capping a 16-play, 71-yard drive with a 34-yard field goal. The drive took 7:13.

A 40-yard rush by Barkley keyed Penn State's ensuing drive, but a Hackenberg pass from the Rutgers' 28 was intercepted by Anthony Cioffi at the 1-yard line with 7:57 remaining.

Rutgers reached midfield on their first two plays, but three consecutive sacks by Nassib, Jordan Lucas (New Rochelle, N.Y.) and Johnson, respectively, moved Rutgers back to their own 21.

Barkley responded on the ensuing possession, breaking off a 54-yard run to the Rutgers' 16 on the first play, and rushing into the end zone on the next for the final margin.

Penn State will next host San Diego State in the first meeting between the two schools Saturday. The game will kick at 3:30 p.m. and be televised on the Big Ten Network. The game is the third of five consecutive games at Beaver Stadium and will also feature the Second Annual Unrivaled Band Jam.

The Unrivaled Band Jam features performances by high school bands and the Penn State Blue Band. Band Jam will begin at 1:30 p.m. in the Jordan Center. There is no admission fee.

Partial season and single game tickets for the 2015 campaign are on sale. To purchase tickets or for information on joining the Nittany Lion Club and purchasing new 2015 season tickets, as well as club seating in Beaver Stadium, fans can visit PSUnrivaled.com, call 1-800-NITTANY or visit the Bryce Jordan Center ticket office weekdays from 10 a.m-6 p.m.

Lynch said he'd never seen a hole that big and acknowledged he might not see another one. But Penn State's offensive linemen - often beleaguered after allowing 44 sacks last season and 10 in the season opener to Temple - would say otherwise.

Playing without starting left tackle Andrew Nelson, Penn State's front five kept pass rushers off of Christian Hackenberg for the second straight week, and helped Penn State gain 330 yards rushing.

Hackenberg was 10 of 19 for 141 yards passing, and threw a late interception.

Rutgers struggled to move the ball all night. The Scarlet Knights managed just 115 yards to Penn State's 311 in the first half, and added 179 more the rest of the way.

Penn State cornerback Grant Haley intercepted Laviano's final pass of the first half, and freshman John Reid picked off Laviano off early in the third quarter after Rutgers had crossed midfield.

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