It took a little while, but Penn State scored the final 35 points in the game to beat Rutgers, 35-6. That stopped the losing streak at 2 games.
Heisman hopeful Saquon Barkley ran for only 35 yards on 14 attempts, but he did score twice. Instead, QB Trace McSorley was the biggest star on Saturday, passing for 214 yards, rushing for 44 yards and scoring three total touchdowns in the rout.
Here’s what we can learn from Penn State’s win:
What it means for Penn State football
Penn State snaps a two-game losing streak and should rise in College Football Playoff rankings due to losses from those ahead entering this week. The Nittany Lions are 8-2, finish up with games vs. Nebraska and Maryland, and can push toward a New Years’ Six Bowl.
5 things we learned about Penn State vs. Rutgers
1. Penn State can’t seem to shrug off run game struggles. The Nittany Lions haven’t run over teams this season on offense, but deficiencies in that department have become more glaring lately. Despite the presence of a program legend at running back, Penn State simply can’t string together consistent positive outcomes on the ground. Saquon Barkley managed minus-3 rushing yards on 5 carries in the first half vs. Rutgers. Like we’ve seen against other opponents during recent matchups, defensive players routinely met Barkley in the backfield. Entering the game, he managed only 60 rushing yards on his past 19 carries during the previous six quarters vs. Ohio State and Michigan State.
2. Trace McSorley may enter a tier of his own when it comes to all-time program touchdowns. The quarterback became Penn State’s all-time leader in career touchdowns accounted for Saturday afternoon. The redshirt junior ended up with 3 total touchdowns (2 passing, 1 rushing). He has at least 1 touchdown pass in 25 straight games. Assuming McSorley returns next season, there is a realistic chance his career total surpasses 100 scores. Through 10 games, McSorley has collected 29 touchdowns. He established a new program record for career touchdown tosses last Saturday vs. Michigan State.
3. Juwan Johnson emerged as the go-to guy in Penn State’s passing attack. The Nittany Lions spread the ball in aerial efforts as well as any team in college football, and entered this matchup with six players over 200 receiving yards in 2017. Senior DaeSean Hamilton, the program’s all-time career catches leader, tops the team in receiving yards through 10 games but Juwan Johnson was a spotlighted target vs. Rutgers. Johnson caught 5 passes for 78 yards, and came up with a pair of key snags during a third-quarter scoring drive that helped provide Penn State with a comfortable 28-6 lead. Johnson, the younger brother of former Rutgers defensive end George Johnson, entered the season with high expectations. His redshirt sophomore season will likely be remembered for a game-winning reception at Iowa, but he appears capable of creating more memorable moments in the years to come.
4. Rutgers really didn’t want to pass the ball. This wasn’t a surprise, considering the Scarlet Knights entered this matchup averaging 124 passing yards per contest (123rd among all FBS teams). Rutgers leaned heavily on its run game against Penn State but struggled to sustain drives, and claimed 3 of its points following a Penn State turnover on the opening kickoff. The Scarlet Knights collected only 20 passing yards through 3 quarters Saturday. After getting shredded by Ohio State QB J.T. Barrett and Michigan State QB Brian Lewerke during the past two weeks, this was a welcome reprieve for the Nittany Lions defense.
5. Jersey boys delivered vs. Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights will struggle to climb conference standings until Chris Ash is able to keep top New Jersey prospects home. Penn State has repeatedly plundered the Garden State on the recruiting trail, and those former blue-chip prospects stepped up Saturday. Juwan Johnson lead the team in receiving yards, Mike Gesicki caught a touchdown, former Scarlet Knights commit Saeed Blacknall contributed in the passing game, the Nittany Lions started three New Jersey products on the offensive line and Jason Cabinda led the team in tackles. It’s another reminder that in-state recruiting is vitally important. Penn State carries a commitment from 5-star receiver Justin Shorter, a 2018 recruit from New Jersey.
Player of the game
Trace McSorley. The Nittany Lions struggled to create much on the ground, so this was a game in which McSorley needed to shine. The Penn State quarterback accounted for 3 touchdowns and was highly efficient as a passer.
Play of the game
Trace McSorley’s touchdown pass extends Penn State lead as halftime approaches. Penn State clung to a 7-6 advantage late in the first half but a 22-yard toss to DaeSean Hamilton helped give the Nittany Lions momentum entering intermission. A 14-6 advantage at halftime seemed even larger due to Rutgers’ inability to throw the ball downfield.
Penn State remains home for another Big Ten battle, as Nebraska comes to Beaver Stadium on Saturday, Nov. 11. The Nittany Lions aim to extend a Happy Valley win streak to 13 games, capping off a 7-game 2017 home slate.
The Cornhuskers will limp into Happy Valley following a lopsided loss at Minnesota. Nebraska is 4-6 this season and may be looking ahead at a coaching change.
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