Mike Gesicki

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Over five hours later, Penn State and Michigan State finally reach halftime

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Over five hours later, we have reached halftime in East Lansing between Penn State and Michigan State, with the Nittany Lions and Spartans tied 14-14 at the second break of the game. A nearly three-and-a-half hour weather delay in the middle of the second quarter posed an extra challenge to both teams.

With 7:58 to play in the second quarter, the game had to be sent into a weather delay as lightning strikes moving through the area caused a threat to the safety of the teams and fans in Spartan Stadium. The weather delay was announced as officials were reviewing an incomplete pass from Michigan State quarterback Brian Lewerke to Trishton Jackson on the sideline. The incomplete pass was upheld. It would be a while until they played third down.

Penn State was looking to get off to a nice quick start to move on from last week’s loss at Ohio State, but an interception thrown by Trace McSorley after missing a couple of throws earlier on the drive brought the game’s opening drive to an end. Unfortunately for the Spartans, Michigan State could not take advantage of the possession despite a promising looking drive that included a 3rd and 11 and 3rd and 19 pass completions to keep the ball moving. But on 4th and 2, Mark Dantonio opted to punt from the Penn State 43-yard line.

Penn State got the offense in gear on their second possession with McSorley dialing in and Saquon Barkley getting a chance to throw out of a direct snap for a 20-yard gain to tight end Mike Gesicki. McSorley then completed back-to-back passes to DeAndre Thompkins and then DaeSean Hamilton for a 31-yard score and a 7-0 lead. Michigan State answered after getting the ball near midfield on the ensuing kickoff, thanks in part to a good return and a late hit penalty on Penn State. Four plays later, Lewerke tied it up with a pass to Darrell Stewart Jr. Not to be outdone, Penn State had their own answer with Mcsorley completing a fourth-down pass to Saeed Blacknall, who then took advantage of horrendous tackling efforts by multiple Michigan State players on his way to the endzone for a go-ahead score.

Michigan State tied the game at 14-14 with a Lewerke touchdown pass to Felton Davis III from 33 yards.

Lightning causes weather delay of Michigan State-Penn State

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The Big Ten contest in East Lansing, Michigan between Michigan State and Penn State is getting an earlier break than expected. Midway through the second quarter, the game was forced to be interrupted with inclement weather bringing lightning to the area. The teams left the field for their respective locker rooms midway through the second quarter with Penn State leading the Spartans, 14-7.

The announcement of the weather delay came just before an official video review on a Michigan State incompletion could be ruled on. The pass was ruled incomplete as the Spartans appeared to be on the move.

At the weather break, Trace McSorley has passed for 193 yards and two touchdowns with one interception for Penn State, while Brian Lewerke has been effective through the air for the Spartans with 159 yards and a score. The running backs have not been able to get too much going, with LJ Scott leading the way with 18 rushing yards on five carries. Penn State’s Saquon Barkley is once again not impressing in the rushing department with just one yard on three carries, however, Barkley completed a 20-yard pass to tight end Mike Gesicki and has caught a couple of passes for 13 yards.

Penn State’s streak of not allowing a touchdown to be scored in the first quarter was snapped this week, a week after seeing its first quarter shutout streak come to an end against Ohio State.

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.

No. 2 Penn State exacts revenge on No. 19 Michigan, advances to showdown vs. No. 6 Ohio State

Associated Press
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The trajectory of Penn State’s program changed with last season’s loss to Michigan. That 49-10 drubbing in Ann Arbor dropped the Nittany Lions to 2-2 on the season and 2-6 dating back to the close of the 2015 season and furthered the narrative that James Franklin couldn’t compete against the elite of the Big Ten.

Penn State is now the elite of the Big Ten. The No. 2 Nittany Lions entered Saturday night 15-1 since that blowout loss to Michigan, and improved to 16-1 with a 42-13 defeat of No. 19 Michigan.

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.

That momentum continued into the second half. The Lions opened the second half with a 9-play, 80-yard march that closed with McSorley’s second touchdown run and, after a three-and-out, Penn State’s backfield battery put the game out of reach with a 42-yard touchdown connection from McSorley to Barkley. McSorley closed the night hitting 17-of-26 throws for 282 yards with a touchdown and an interception and 11 carries for 76 yards and three scores. Barkley rushed 15 times for 108 yards and two touchdowns with three grabs for 53 yards and a touchdown. As a team, Penn State racked up 506 yards of total offense, more than double the 223.8 yards per game Michigan’s FBS-leading defense entered the night surrendering — and Franklin allowed the clock to expire with Penn State inside the Michigan 10-yard line and three timeouts in his pocket, so it could have been worse.

Trailing 35-13 early in the fourth quarter, Jim Harbaugh put together a last-chance drive to claw back in the game, but O’Korn was sacked on fourth down near midfield. McSorley’s third touchdown run of the night, a 9-yarder with 7:53 to play, added the exclamation point.

The win pushed Penn State to 7-0 on the season (4-0 Big Ten) and advanced the Nittany Lions into the game of the year in the Big Ten and perhaps the entire college football regular season: a visit to No. 6 Ohio State next Saturday (3:30 p.m. ET, Fox).

Michigan dropped to 5-2 overall and 2-2 in Big Ten play. Trailing Penn State, Michigan State and Ohio State by two games and ceding the tie-breaker to the first two, the 2017 season officially takes on “rebuilding year” status as the Wolverines are now playing for positioning among the Tampa-Orlando-Jacksonville bowl games and 2018 preparation.

The Nittany Lions, though, are playing for much more, and they have Michigan to thank for that.

Penn State starts fast, but Michigan hanging around

Associated Press
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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.