Northwestern managed to tie down Penn State running back Saquon Barkley for the majority of the afternoon, but sooner or later he was bound to break loose for a big play. And break loose he did, Barkley ripped off a 53-yard touchdown run in the third quarter to flip the script in the box score for his Heisman Trophy campaign, but it was a full team effort that contributed to No. 4 Penn State (6-0, 3-0 Big Ten) picking up a decisive 31-7 victory on the road against Northwestern (2-3, 0-2 Big Ten) in Big Ten play.
Barkley ended his afternoon with 75 rushing yards and two touchdowns, with the 53-yard score being the highlight of the day for him. At one point in the game, Barkley had more rushing touchdowns (1) than he had rushing yards (0). It was that kind of day against Northwestern, who excelled in not letting Barkley get too many opportunities to do damage. But that meant other players would have chances to step up for Penn State. Saeed Blacknall caught four passes for 74 yards. Backup quarterback Tommy Stevens caught two passes, including a touchdown. Juwan Johnson had a team-high six catches for 43 yards as Penn State spread the ball around in the passing game. Trace McSorley was 25-of-34 for 245 yards and a touchdown without a turnover.
Northwestern’s only score of the day came late in the fourth quarter after missing on some opportunities to make a game of it earlier in the game. Northwestern held the football on Penn State’s side of the field three times in the first half but saw each possession end with a turnover.
Penn State’s defense came close to pitching a third shutout of the season, but it continues to be a strength of the Nittany Lions. Northwestern managed just 265 yards of offense in the game.
Penn State heads into a bye week before what should be the make-or-break stretch of the season as far as Penn State’s Big Ten and College Football Playoff hopes may be concerned. After getting off next week, Penn State will host Michigan the following week. After that is a road trip to Ohio State. If Penn State doesn’t have their offensive line playing better for those two games, they could be in trouble.
Northwestern will hit the road in Big Ten play next week to play Maryland. The Terrapins will be coming off a road game at Ohio State.