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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Running back Saquon Barkley and quarterback Trace McSorley scored three touchdowns each as Penn State (9-2, 6-2 Big Ten) totaled 609 yards of offense in a 56-44 victory over Nebraska (4-7, 3-5 Big Ten) in Big Ten football action Saturday afternoon in Beaver Stadium.
Penn State extended its home winning streak to 14 games, completing its home schedule with a second consecutive perfect 7-0 record for its first back-to-back undefeated home seasons since 1985 and 1986.
It was Penn State's most prolific offensive performance since rolling for 661 yards against Rutgers in 1995, and ended up being the highest-scoring game in Beaver Stadium history.
The Nittany Lions took control of the game late in the first quarter, rattling of five consecutive touchdown drives to turn a 10-7 deficit into a 42-10 lead before the halftime break. Nebraska scored a pair of touchdowns in the third quarter to cut the deficit to 18 points, but Penn State answered with a pair of early-fourth quarter touchdowns to restore its 32-point edge. However, the Huskers trimmed the deficit to just 12 points with three late touchdowns.
Barkley's three rushing touchdowns give him 39 for his career, breaking the record of 38 set by Lydell Mitchell 46 years ago. He did the majority of his work in the first half, totaling 142 yards rushing on just 14 carries with the three scores. He finished with 158 yards on 17 carries, and added 66 yards on six receptions to total 224 all-purpose yards.
McSorley was responsible for four touchdowns, extending his consecutive games with a passing touchdown streak to 26 games by throwing for three touchdowns, and he also rushed for one score. He racked up 371 yards of total offense by passing for 325 yards on 24-of-36 passing and rushing nine times for 46 yards. It was his ninth career 300-yard passing game, tying him for the Penn State record with Christian Hackenberg.
In addition to Barkley, Juwan Johnson and Mike Gesicki were top targets of McSorley's. Johnson enjoyed his first career 100-yard receiving game with 105 yards on five catches, while Gesicki caught two touchdown passes amongst his four receptions for 47 yards. Gesicki became Penn State's career leader in receiving yards by a tight end (1,384 yards) and the lone record holder for career touchdown receptions by a tight end (13).
- RB Saquon Barkley - Barkley finished with 158 yards rushing and three touchdowns on 17 carries and also totaled 66 yards receiving on six receptions for 224 all-purpose yards. Only three carries for 16 yards and one catch came in very limited action in the second half. It was a historic night for him as he set multiple milestones. He became the just the second player in Penn State history with three consecutive 1,000-yard rushing seasons and the second to reach the 3,500-rushing yard mark in his career, both of which had only been done by Evan Royster (2007-10). He also broke a 46-year-old record for career rushing touchdowns, scoring his 37th, 38th and 39th to break Lydell Mitchell's record of 38.
- QB Trace McSorley - McSorley threw for 325 yards and three touchdowns on 24-of-36 passing and rushed nine times for 46 yards and a touchdown to total 371 yards of total offense and four touchdowns responsible for. It was his 26th consecutive game with a touchdown pass and 15th game with both a passing and rushing touchdown. It was his ninth-career 300-yard passing game, tying him with Christian Hackenberg (2013-15) for the Penn State record.
- TE Mike Gesicki - Gesicki caught a pair of touchdown passes and finished with four receptions for 47 yards. He became Penn State's sole record holder for career touchdowns by a tight end, breaking a tie with Jesse James (2012-14) with his 12th and 13th scores.
- WR Juwan Johnson - Johnson caught five passes for a career-high 105 yards.
- LB Brandon Smith - The senior linebacker posted a game- and career-high 13 tackles.
- Nittany Lion Fans - With an announced attendance of 106,722, Penn State's average attendance for 2017 finished at 106,707, for its highest average attendance since 2009 (107,008).
- QB Tanner Lee - Lee threw for 399 yards and three touchdowns on 26-of-41 passing, with the three scores and 327 yards coming in the second half.
- WR Stanley Morgan - Morgan caught a game-high seven passes for 185 yards and a touchdown.
- RB Mikale Wilbon - Wilbon rushed for two touchdowns and 53 yards on 10 carries.
First Quarter (Penn State 14, Nebraska 10)
It took Penn State just three plays to score, as Saquon Barkley broke free for a 65-yard touchdown run. Downfield blocking by wide receiver Juwan Johnson allowed Barkley to sprint down the sideline untouched.
Penn State forced a three-and-out on defense, but inadvertently touched a short punt, and Nebraska's Collin Miller recovered it at the Penn State 34-yard line. Nebraska was able to get a field goal out of the second chance, gaining 23 yards on eight plays to reach the 11-yard line for a 27-yard Drew Brown kick.
Nebraska then forced a three-and-out and Blake Gillikin shanked the punt, only kicking it 18 yards to the Penn State 36, and took advantage of the short field again The Huskers found the end zone this time, as Tanner Lee completed back-to-back passes of 17 and 18 yards to the Penn State 1, and Devine Ozigbo pushed his way into the end zone on the next play for a 10-7 lead.
Penn State regained the lead on its next possession. DaeSean Hamilton kept the drive alive on third-and-5, making a move to elude a defender and get past the first-down marker to the Penn State 46, and then Johnson turned a short catch into a 43-yard gain, breaking tackles and benefitting from downfield blocking himself to reach the Nebraska 11.
Barkley appeared to have an 11-yard touchdown on the very next play, rushing around the right edge and flipping over defenders into the end zone, but it was overturned on review, as his toe just touched the out-of-bounds line with the ball at the 1-yard line. McSorley tried to punch it himself on first-and-goal, but was stopped before the goal line. However, Barkley was able to break the plane on the next play for a 14-10 lead with 2:40 remaining in the quarter.
Penn State forced a quick three-and-out and ran one offensive play before the quarter ended, which was a 30-yard Barkley run between the tackles. He finished the quarter with 111 yards rushing on seven carries.
Second Quarter (Penn State 42, Rutgers 10)
Penn State scored four unanswered touchdowns in the second quarter while forcing five Nebraska three-and-outs to take a commanding lead.
Barkley's 30-yard run to end the first quarter placed Penn State at its own 45 to start the second quarter. A 22-yard completion to Saeed Blacknall on third-and-10 moved the Nittany Lions into Nebraska territory at the 33, and then four consecutive rushes resulted in a touchdown, with McSorley taking it across the goal line from 9 yards out for a 21-10 advantage with 11:53 on the clock.
A 24-yard Barkley reception started the next touchdown drive, advancing the Lions to the Nebraska 43. A second-down, 12-yard completion to Hamilton followed by a 13-yard Mike Gesicki reception with a roughing the passer penalty tacked on spotted the ball at the 9, setting up a Gesicki touchdown catch on the very next play. It extended Penn State's lead to 28-10 with 9:23 left in the half.
Barkley scored his third touchdown of the half on the next drive, capping a 10-play, 65-yard drive with an 8-yard touchdown run, extending the Lion lead to 35-10 with 4:36 remaining in the half.
DeAndre Thompkins capped the scoring run with a 15-yard touchdown reception with 1:19 left before the break. The seven-play, 78-yard drive was keyed by a 22-yard reception by Johnson.
Third Quarter (Penn State 42, Nebraska 24)
Nebraska scored a pair of touchdowns in the quarter to cut the deficit to 18 points. Mikale Wilbon scored on a 24-yard run with 6:40 remaining in the quarter, capping an eight-play, 90-yard drive, and then after a three-and-out for Penn State, Nebraska found the end zone again on a 22-yard pass from Tanner Lee to De'Mornay Pierson-El with 2:34 remaining in the frame. The latter drive was highlighted by a 51-yard completion to Stanley Morgan.
Fourth Quarter (Penn State 56, Nebraska 44)
McSorley threw a 17-yard touchdown pass to Gesicki early in the fourth quarter, and then the respective understudies for both teamed for a touchdown on the next offensive possession, as quarterback Tommy Stevens threw a 15-yard touchdown pass to tight end Nick Bowers. It was not only Bowers' first career touchdown, but his first career reception, and it gave Penn State a 56-24 lead with 10:13 remaining.
Nebraska shrank the final margin to just 12 points though with three late touchdowns, including one when time expired.
PSU - 14:03 - TD - Saquon Barkley 65 yd Rush, 3 plays, 74 yards, 0:57, 7-0
NEB - 9:18 - FG - Drew Brown 27 yd Field Goal, 8 plays, 23 yards, 3:29, 7-3
NEB - 6:17 - TD - Devine Ozigbo 1 yd Rush, 3 plays, 36 yards, 1:09, 7-10
PSU - 2:40 - TD - Saquon Barkley 1 yd Rush, 7 plays, 66 yards, 3:30, 14-10
PSU - 11:53 - TD - Trace McSorley 9 yd Rush, 8 plays, 85 yards, 3:22, 21-10
PSU - 9:23 - TD - Mike Gesicki 9 yd Pass from Trace McSorley, 5 plays, 67 yards, 1:27, 28-10
PSU - 4:36 - TD - Saquon Barkley 8 yd Rush, 10 plays, 65 yards, 4:24, 35-10
PSU - 1:19 - TD - DeAndre Thompkins 15 yd Pass from Trace McSorley, 7 plays, 78 yards, 1:45, 42-10
NEB - 6:40 - TD - Mikale Wilbon 24 yd Rush, 8 plays, 90 yards, 4:12, 42-17
NEB - 2:34 - TD - De'Mornay Pierson-El 22 yd Pass from Tanner Lee, 4 plays, 79 yards, 2:13, 42-24
PSU - 13:59 - TD - Mike Gesicki 17 yd Pass from Trace McSorley, 10 plays, 79 yards, 3:29, 49-24
PSU - 10:13 - TD - Nick Bowers 15 yd Pass from Tommy Stevens, 6 plays, 75 yards, 2:31, 56-24
NEB - 6:32 - TD - Stanley Morgan 8 yd Pass from Tanner Lee, 7 plays, 75 yards, 3:41, 56-31
NEB - 1:20 - TD - Mikale Wilbon 1 yd Rush 7 plays, 97 yards, 3:12, 56-38
NEB - 0:00 - TD - Jack Stoll 3 yd Pass from Tanner Lee, 7 plays, 54 yards, 1:20, 56-44
Penn State closes out its regular season schedule at Maryland next Saturday. The game will kick at either 3:30 or 3:45 p.m. and air on either ABC, ESPN or BTN. Final arrangements will be announced no later than Sunday.