DaeSean Hamilton

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Two Saquon Barkley TDs help Penn State hold halftime lead at Ohio State

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For the second straight week, Penn State took a 14-0 lead just minutes into the game, but this time they did it on the road to silence the Ohio State crowd a bit out of the gates. Penn State also capitalized on a controversial call by the Big Ten officials and holds a 28-17 lead on the Buckeyes at halftime of a colossal Big Ten showdown.

Saquon Barkley returned the game’s opening kickoff 97 yards for a touchdown to get Penn State off to a great start with a 7-0 lead just 15 seconds into the game.

After the defense forced a fumble by Parris Campbell, the Nittany Lions took an early 14-0 lead on a Trace McSorley pass to DaeSean Hamilton inside the red zone on third down. After Ohio State got on the board with a field goal, Penn State went back to work a couple of possessions later and extended their lead to 21-3 on a 36-yard touchdown run by Barkley, getting a key downfield block by McSorley. An official review checked to make sure Barkley did not step out of bounds and upheld the initial call for the touchdown.

Down 18 points at home, Ohio State was already getting desperate for a touchdown, and they finally got it with a J.T. Barrett touchdown pass to Terry McLaurin to cut into the Penn State lead. The pass was Barrett’s 91st career touchdown pass, breaking the Big Ten record previously set by Drew Brees of Purdue.

Penn State did get a lucky break following a terrific kick return following the Ohio State touchdown. McSorley was picked off in the end zone but a pass interference call on Ohio State negated the interception, and McSorley ran in for a score on the next play to push the lead to 28-10. The call that will be scrutinized can be seen here…

Ohio State gets the ball to start the second half. It’s still anyone’s game with first place in the Big Ten East on the line.

Buckeyes know focus on Saquon Barkley is just the start

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When Ohio State defensive coordinator Greg Schiano is working on the defensive game plan for this week’s matchup against Penn State, the starting point is an obvious one: don’t be a part of Saquon Barkley‘s Heisman reel.

Penn State’s dynamic running back has emerged as the Heisman Trophy frontrunner and is coming off a good outing against Michigan last week. Getting a chance to go against Barkley is a motivating factor for Ohio State’s defense, and linebacker Jerome Baker seems to be looking forward to going out and trying to stop him.

“Always be aware of where he’s at, know where he is every play, every down,” Baker said, according to the Associated Press. “That’s just pure respect… He can do it all. He can block, he can run, he can jump over you, he can jump through you. Me personally, I just love to watch him play. I’m definitely excited to play against him.”

Barkley truly is a running back that can thrive in multiple areas, making him the best all-around running back in the nation. Barkley has accounted for 757 rushing yards, 8 rushing touchdowns, 448 receiving yards, 3 receiving touchdowns, and one touchdown pass along with a kickoff return for a touchdown. On top of that, he has proven to be a solid blocker, making a key block on Penn State’s game-winning play earlier this season in the final seconds against Iowa.

Teams facing Penn State have made it a point to zero in on Barkley and hope they can contain him enough to slow down Penn State’s offense. Barkley has had four games this season with fewer than 100 rushing yards, including Indiana and Northwestern, but Barkley has also rushed for 211 yards against Iowa and 108 yards against Michigan while also adding to his receiving total. Teams have proven they can penetrate Penn State’s offensive line to prevent Barkley from having too many opportunities to break a big play, but stopping him completely is a different story.

Barkley has had some of his best games against Ohio State. Last year, Barkley rushed for 99 yards on 12 carries to help Penn State hang around long enough to take the upset win at home. The previous season, in Barkley’s freshman season and first game in Ohio Stadium, Barkley rushed for 194 yards on 26 carries, and he had a long touchdown run called back due to a penalty. Barkley has yet to score a touchdown against Ohio State in two meetings, which should be worthy of a badge of honor for Ohio State. If the Buckeyes can keep Barkley out of the end zone again, that would be an impressive feat over three seasons.

So too is solving the rest of the Penn State offense. As Northwestern and Michigan found out, selling out to stop Barkley can be effective at times, but Penn State has other options to play with to counter that strategy. Trace McSorley running is a threat as well, as is passing to tight end Mike Gesicki and receivers DaeSean Hamilton and Juwan Johnson.

Last year, Ohio State did well in slowing down Penn State’s offense in Beaver Stadium, but the Buckeyes failed to deliver the knockout blow with the ball and that ended up costing them the win. On Saturday, the Ohio State defense gets their chance to flex some muscle once again, but it will remain up to J.T. Barrett and the offense to finish the job.

Penn State starts fast, but Michigan hanging around

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On a white out night in State College, Penn State threatened to blowout Michigan early, but the Wolverines battled back to a 21-13 deficit at the break.

Penn State offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead pulled out a wrinkle on the Nittany Lions’ second play from scrimmage, and it worked to perfection. Quarterback Trace McSorley and running back Saquon Barkley shifted pre-snap, and Barkley took the direct snap and raced 69 yards untouched for a touchdown.

After forcing a three-and-out, Penn State moved 78 yards in four plays, keyed by a 35-yard rainbow heave from McSorley to tight end Mike Gesicki. Barkley scored his second touchdown of the first quarter one play later, a 15-yard burst around the right side. 

But Penn State’s offense stalled from there. The Lions’ next possession ended in a McSorley interception, and the possession after that was a three-and-out that lost nine yards. Penn State penetrated Michigan territory midway through the second quarter, but Barkley dropped a wheel route that would’ve put the Lions inside the red zone. Penn State turned the ball over on downs two plays later.

Meanwhile, Michigan turned McSorley’s interception into an 11-play, 59-yard touchdown drive capped by a 1-yard Karan Higdon run on fourth-and-goal. Quinn Nordin missed the ensuing PAT.

After the turnover on downs, Michigan marched 67 yards on a series of John O’Korn plays — a 14-yard rush, an 18-yard strike to Donovan Peoples-Jones, and 23 yards to Kekoa CrawfordTy Isaac powered in from six yards out to pull the Wolverines within one with 1:45 to play before the half. 

Threatened for the first time of the evening, Penn State ended its streak of three straight unsuccessful drives with a 7-play, 75-yard march that consumed only 52 seconds. McSorley accounted for 68 yards on the drive, including a 3-yard rush to put the home team back up eight.

O’Korn closed the half hitting 7-of-9 passes for 63 yards, while a host of Wolverines runners combined to rush 22 times for 78 yards.

McSorley hit 10-of-18 passes for 159 yards with an interception with five carries for 26 yards and a score. Barkley rushed 11 times for 109 yards and two scores, while DaeSean Hamilton caught three passes for 69 yards.

Michigan will receive to open the second half.

Saquon Barkley adds to Heisman reel as No. 4 Penn State drops Indiana 45-14

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Penn State running back Saquon Barkley may not have had a dynamite day running the football, but he once again demonstrated how lethal he can be in other ways. Barkley returned the game’s opening kickoff 98 yards for a touchdown and threw a touchdown pass in the fourth quarter as No. 4 Penn State (5-0, 2-0 Big Ten) started fast and finished strongly against Indiana (2-2, 0-2 Big Ten) in a 45-14 win.

Barkley carried the football 20 times but was limited to 56 yards by the Indiana defense. But Barkley added four catches for 51 yards and completed a 16-yard pass to DaeSean Hamilton on top of his 98-yard kick return for 221 all-purpose yards. Hamilton also made some Penn State history by becoming the school’s all-time leading receiver with 180 career receptions. He also scored three touchdowns in the game. Trace McSorley had a somewhat rough outing but still managed to end the game with 315 passing yards and a pair of touchdowns through the air, and he added one rushing touchdown as well.

Outside of the first quarter, in which Penn State put a 28-0 lead on the board, the Hoosiers played fairly well. But four turnovers proved to be too much against Penn State, with three turnovers leading to a Penn State touchdown. The Hoosiers also seemed to make a switch at quarterback from Richard Lagow (7-of-15, 97 yards) to Peyton Ramsey (8-of-17, 78 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT). Lagow may have gotten banged up but he continued to toss the football on the sideline in the second half alongside Ramsey.

Penn State will be back on the road for the second time in three weeks of Big Ten play. The Nittany Lions head to Evanston to face Northwestern next Saturday afternoon. The Wildcats are coming off a road loss at Wisconsin and have won each of the past two meetings with Penn State (2014, 2015). James Franklin is 0-3 against Pat Fitzgerald, including one loss while the head coach of Vanderbilt.

Indiana will get a chance to get back in the win column next week when they return home to host FCS Charleston Southern in Bloomington. After that, Indiana will host the Michigan Wolverines on Oct. 14.

Penn State defensive lineman Garrett Sickels to enter NFL Draft

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Get ready to see another Penn State defensive lineman be picked up by an NFL team in the NFL Draft. Redshirt junior Garrett Sickels has announced he will be entering the NFL Draft this year, thus passing on the final year of eligibility he had with the Nittany Lions.

The All-Big Ten selection is coming off a season with a career high in tackles (47) and sacks (6) and proved to be a dominant force up front off the end of Penn State’s defensive line this season.

“This journey has been an amazing ride from my commitment to Penn State in 2012 to this past Rose Bowl game,” Sickels said in a statement released on Twitter. “I have made friendships and bonds that will last a lifetime. I’m so unbelievably proud to call myself a Penn Stater. I take great pride in knowing me and my fellow classmates of the 2013 recruiting class have left Penn State in a much greater place then when we arrived.”

Sickels was one of the key recruits in Penn State’s Class of 2013 that remained committed to the program immediately after the program was slammed with NCAA sanctions at the time. That same class brought quarterback Christian Hackenberg, wide receiver DaeSean Hamilton, linebacker Brandon Bell and tight end Adam Breneman (who just finished off a stellar season at UMass), among others.

The loss of Sickels means Penn State will replace both starters at defensive end in the fall, although the Nittany Lions have some young options that have been waiting to get in the mix, including four-star addition in the Class of 2016 Shane Simmons, who redshirted this past season.