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EVANSTON, Ill. -The Penn State (6-0, 3-0 Big Ten) defense and precise passing from Trace McSorley led the Nittany Lions to their sixth-straight victory this season, as they defeated Northwestern (2-3, 0-2 Big Ten), 31-7, in Big Ten football action Saturday afternoon in Ryan Field.
The win makes Penn State bowl eligible for the fourth time in four seasons under James Franklin. It also marks Penn State's 14th-straight win in a regular season game, 12th-straight over Big Ten opponents and fifth straight on the road. The Lions are 6-0 for the first time since starting the 2008 season 9-0.
Penn State led 10-0 at the half, and then pulled away with a pair of Saquon Barkley touchdowns in the third quarter and a McSorley rushing score in the fourth, before Northwestern earned its first score of the game with less than two minutes remaining.
The Penn State defense limited Northwestern to 265 yards of total offense, yielding just 99 in the second half. It also forced three turnovers in the first half, with Amani Oruwariye and Christian Campbell both earning interceptions and Shaka Toney forcing a fumble that was recovered by Kevin Givens. Toney also led the Nittany Lions with two sacks.
McSorley was responsible for a pair of touchdowns, also throwing for one and completing a program-record 15 consecutive passes across the first to third quarters. He finished with 245 yards passing after completing 25-of-34 passes.
Barkley added a pair of touchdowns on the ground, including a 53-yarder, and totaled 75 yards on 16 carries and nine yards on two receptions.
- QB Trace McSorley - McSorley completed 25-of-34 passing attempts for 245 yards and a touchdown, extending his team-record consecutive games with a touchdown pass streak to 21 games. His passing effort included a string of 15 consecutive completions, breaking Kerry Collins' record of 14 set in 1994 It was his 11th career game with a rushing and passing touchdown.
- RB Saquon Barkley - Barkley scored two rushing touchdowns and rushed 16 times for 75 yards, while catching two passed for nine yards. It marked his 13th-straight game with a touchdown. He did not have any kick return attempts.
- Receivers - Nine different receivers caught a pass, with DeAndre Thompkins and Juwan Johnson tying with a game-high six receptions and Saeed Blacknall totaling a game-high 74 yards. Thompkins' six catches were a career high.
- QB Tommy Stevens - Stevens saw action as a running back and quarterback. He caught an eight-yard touchdown pass, rushed three times for 20 yards, and completed a career-high 4-of-7 passes for 41 yards.
- Defense - The Nittany Lions featured 28 different players making a tackle as it held Northwestern without a score until 1:46 remaining in the game. Grant Haley (3) and Christian Campbell (2) totaled five of the team's 10 pass breakups, setting and tying career highs, respectively. Campbell and Oruwariye pulled in an interception each, while Toney and Givens forced and recovered a fumble, respectively. The unit also made seven stops behind the line and forced seven three-and-outs.
- S Godwin Igwebuike - Igwebuike led Northwestern with 11 tackles, including eight solo and one behind the line.
- LB Nate Hall - Hall made nine stops, including one of Northwestern's four sacks and two total tackles for loss.
First Quarter (Penn State 3, Northwestern 0)
Penn State's defense shined in the first quarter despite favorable field position for Northwestern, as the Nittany Lions squashed scoring opportunities with turnovers. On its first offensive drive, Northwestern took over on downs at its own 38 and completed a 24-yard pass on fourth-and-8 to the Penn State 10-yard line to bring up first-and-goal, but a holding penalty for a loss of 10 yards, a sack by Curtis Cothran for a loss of eight and a rush for no gain brought up third down from the Penn State 28. Northwestern QB Clayton Thorson attempted a deep pass but Amani Oruwariye made a leaping interception at the Penn State 10.
Penn State went three-and-out on offense after the interception though, and Blake Gillikin's punt into the stiff wind only went 39 yards to the Northwestern 45. The Wildcats were able to pick up one first down, but on third-and-9 from the Penn State 41, Shaka Toney strip-sacked Thorson, and Kevin Givens recovered the fumble at the Penn State 48.
The turnover setup an eight-play, 49-yard field goal drive that Tyler Davis completed with a 21-yard field goal conversion with 13 seconds remaining in the quarter.
Second Quarter (Penn State 10, Northwestern 0)
The Nittany Lions found the end zone on their first offensive drive of the second quarter for the lone score of the frame. The Penn State defense forced a three-and-out to start the stanza, and a shanked punt gave the Nittany Lions the ball at their own 48.
It took the Lions just five plays to score, as McSorley connected with DeAndre Thompkins for 19 yards to the Northwestern 33, and then McSorley found Brandon Polk on back-to-back plays, first for 6 yards and then for 23 yards, to the Northwestern 4. The Wildcats stopped Saquon Barkley for a loss of 6 yards, but then McSorley threw a 10-yard touchdown pass to Tommy Stevens for a 10-0 lead with 12:04 remaining in the half.
The Penn State defense continued to thrive, stopping Northwestern on fourth-and-2 from the Penn State 33 with 7:01 remaining in the quarter.
Penn State was forced to punt and Gillikin pinned the Wildcats at their own 8-yard line with 3:31 to go. The Wildcats reached the Penn State 37 in the final seconds of the half, but a heave to the end zone was intercepted by Christian Campbell to send the teams to the locker room.
Third Quarter (Penn State 24, Northwestern 0)
The Wildcats received the kickoff to open the half, but the Nittany Lions forced a three-and-out, took over on offense at their own 34 and assembled a 10-play, 66-yard touchdown drive.
McSorley went 5-for-5 passing on the drive, and his fifth completion was a 38-yarder to Saeed Blacknall, who broke a tackle and scampered to the Northwestern 5, before getting nudged out of bounds. Stevens lined up in the backfield and rushed for four yards to the 1, McSorley got the ball inside the 1 on another rush, and then Barkley reached the ball across for the score with 9:33 to go in the quarter.
The Penn State defense did not allow a first down in the quarter and Barkley found the end zone again late in the frame, breaking free for 53 yards down the right sideline.
Fourth Quarter (Penn State 31, Northwestern 7)
McSorley engineered an 11-play, 54-yard touchdown drive, taking the ball himself from five yards out with 8:52 remaining in the game.
Northwestern was able to avoid the shutout late, driving 80 yards on nine plays. Backup quarterback Matt Alviti, led the drive, highlighted by completions of 14 and 25 yard and a 14-yard rush. He rushed the ball into the end zone himself from a yard out for the final margin.
PSU - 0:13 - FG - Tyler Davis 21 yd Field Goal, 8 plays, 49 yards, 3:25, 0-3
PSU - 12:04 - TD - Tommy Stevens 10 yd Pass from Trace McSorley, 5 plays, 52 yards, 2:11, 0-10
PSU - 9:33 - TD - Saquon Barkley 1 yd Rush, 10 plays, 66 yards, 4:21, 0-17
PSU - 2:13 - TD - Saquon Barkley 53 yd Rush, 4 plays, 71 yards, 1:06, 0-24
PSU - 8:52 - TD - Trace McSorley 5 yd Rush, 11 plays, 54 yards, 3:53, 0-31
NU - 1:46 - TD - Matt Alviti 1 yd Rush, 9 plays, 80 yards, 2:19, 7-31
Penn State will have next Saturday off before hosting Michigan Saturday, Oct. 21.
Single-game tickets for the 2017 Penn State football season presented by PSECU are available for two of the remaining home games (Rutgers, Nebraska). For information on joining the Nittany Lion Club and purchasing new 2018 season tickets, as well as club seating in Beaver Stadium, fans can visit www.PSUnrivaled.com, call 1-800-NITTANY weekdays from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. or visit the Bryce Jordan Center ticket office weekdays from 9 a.m-4:30 p.m.