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Saquon Barkley fuels fast start for Penn State, but Indiana hanging around

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Penn State may have had to sneak out of Iowa City with a win last week, but the Nittany Lions started fast in their return home to Beaver Stadium this week. Saquon Barkley added to his Heisman candidacy highlight reel by returning the game’s opening kick 98 yards for a touchdown and later added a nifty one-handed catch before taking off for a big gain as Penn State jumped out to a 28-0 lead on Indiana, but the Hoosiers have clawed back a little and only trail 28-14 at halftime.

Penn State scored 28 points in the first quarter, including a second score just a few minutes after Barkley’s kickoff touchdown. The Nittany Lions have scored 14 points off Indiana turnovers, including a short return on special teams by Nick Scott. Scott picked up a loose football after Irvin Charles knocked the ball out of the hands of Indiana’s J-Shun Harris II on a punt return. Scott needed just 13 yards on the return for a score.

Harris was slow to get up off the field on the play and has not returned to the game. Indiana also saw running back Morgan Ellison get helped off the field in the first half.

Indiana cut the lead in half late in the second quarter eight plays after a turnover by Penn State. After picking off a pass, Indiana’s Simmie Cobbs Jr. picked up an 18-yard touchdown reception from Peyton Ramsey to continue the chipping away at Penn State’s lead.

Despite getting off on the right foot in the first quarter, Penn State’s offense went into a shell in the second quarter as Indiana found ways to bring pressure on Trace McSorley. Toward the end of the first half, Penn State tight end Mike Gesicki took a shot to the ribs that required some medical assistance off the field. Penn State failed to score in the second quarter, while Indiana did all it could to chip away. The question in the second half is how long Indiana can keep Penn State from doing much damage, and if they can find enough offense to give Penn State a run.

No. 2 Ohio State struggles early but eventually routs pesky Indiana

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For two quarters and some change, Kevin Wilson’s return to Indiana after a messy departure last year wasn’t going as smoothly as Ohio State new offensive coordinator would have wanted. For fans at home and in the stands, the same could be said of the team’s highly anticipated new look on offense, which sputtered early and often.

Then things just started to click for the Buckeyes in the third quarter and the No. 2 team in the country started living up to that preseason ranking, eventually pulling away from the Hoosiers for a comfortable 49-21 victory on Thursday night that opened the season and Big Ten play for both teams.

Quarterback J.T. Barrett wasn’t quite as sharp as some expected the senior to be but he still posted solid numbers (284 yards, three touchdowns passing plus another score on the ground) as he broke in several new receivers for OSU. Perhaps the biggest development for Urban Meyer’s team was the emergence of freshman tailback J.K. Dobbins, who may have Wally Pipped starter Mike Weber (hamstring) with 181 yards rushing and showed off plenty of nifty moves in the open field.

Like their counterparts on the other side of the ball, Ohio State’s defense also need a little time to get warmed up but ended up performing just as expected. The vaunted defensive line helped record five sacks while Jordan Fuller and Denzel Ward both picked off passes.

Though the final score may not have indicated it, the Hoosiers did have their moments in the debut of new head coach Tom Allen and actually led at halftime 14-13. They had numerous opportunities to make things even more interesting in the third quarter but failed to capitalize each time they had a shot at the lead, eventually giving way to a 29 point unanswered run that salted the game away for the visitors. Quarterback Richard Lagow did what he could running the quick tempo offense (40-of-65 — yes 65 attempts — for 410 yards, three scores and two interceptions) and hooked up several times for some highlight reel plays with wideout Simmie Cobbs (149 yards, one score). It wasn’t enough though and the lack of any ground game certainly hampered the offense down the stretch.

If you told somebody who didn’t watch the game that Ohio State won by four touchdowns over Indiana, they probably would think things went as expected in Bloomington before the second string entered the action. That wasn’t exactly the case to start for the Buckeyes but the end result was certainly something fitting for the second-ranked team in the country. It probably won’t be good enough next week as Oklahoma rolls into Columbus but that will be a story for another time.

USC confirms hire of Deland McCullough as Trojans’ new RB coach

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While it took a few days to make things official, USC has confirmed the hire of Deland McCullough as the Trojans’ new running backs coach.

“We are thrilled to welcome Deland to the Trojan Family and fortunate to have him on our staff,” head coach Clay Helton said in a statement.  “He had great success recruiting and then developing prolific running backs at Indiana who were NFL ready.  The Indiana run game during his time was effective, efficient and productive.  He understands the running game and was himself a very skilled runner as a college and pro player.”

McCullough replaces Tommie Robinson, who was hired last month by former USC coach Ed Orgeron to fill the same position at LSU.

The trip West is a bit of a departure for McCullough as he’s spent nearly his entire coaching career — dating back to 2010 — at Indiana. Despite the unfamiliarity with Los Angeles, the young coach developed several quality runners with the Hoosiers, such as Tevin Coleman and Jordan Howard, and should be able to keep that impressive list of pupils growing with players like Ronald Jones II on the USC roster in 2017.

Late field goal helps No. 19 Utah escape with Foster Farms Bowl win over Indiana

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Coaches say all the time it’s not how you start a game, it’s how you finish it.

No. 19 Utah took that to heart on Wednesday night in the Foster Farms Bowl, following up an opening kickoff fumble with a game-winning field goal in the final 90 seconds to top Indiana 26-24 in a wild finish.

Running back Joe Williams was once again the focal point for the Utes offense and caused plenty of the late game drama in the first point by fumbling in Hoosiers territory to setup a go-ahead touchdown for Indiana. That put the team in a perilous position with minutes left in the clock but the veteran tailback churned his way for some big gains down the stretch — finishing with 222 yards and a touchdown — before setting up kicker Andy Phillips, who sneaked the game-winning ball inside the left upright from 27 yards out.

The Utah defense came up with one final stop after that to seal a victory on a night where they also recorded three sacks and three takeaways.

Richard Lagow had a rough outing over on the West Coast as the Indiana quarterback finished just 14-of-39 for 188 yards with one score and one interception. He was under siege most of the game by that tough Utes front seven, which only tailback Devine Redding was able to move the ball effectively through on his way to a 72 yard, one touchdown night on the ground.

There was plenty of fight in the Hoosiers in this one though and they came ever so close to capturing the program’s first bowl victory in 25 seasons. In the end though, it wasn’t enough to get past the Utes, which started slow but finished when it counted in the final minutes.

No. 19 Utah all tied up with Indiana at halftime in Foster Farms Bowl

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No. 19 Utah began the Foster Farms Bowl in just about the worst way possible with a fumble on the opening kickoff and a quick touchdown for Indiana less than a minute later. The Utes rallied behind some good defense and a couple of big plays down the field however and managed to head into halftime tied at 17-all.

Tailback Joe Williams once again powered the way for the offense and finished with 53 yards and a score on the ground while adding another 56 in the passing game as the result of an excellent screen play. He took some of the heat off quarterback Troy Williams (8-of-17, 131 yards) and his backup in freshman Tyler Huntley, who saw significant action in a series of sub-packages and scored a rushing touchdown off a keeper in a different look in the red zone.

Indiana’s offense struggled for most of the half despite punching it into the end zone on that initial possession. The team punted three times after short drives and fumbled twice, including once in the red zone, to allow their opponents back into the game and managed just a field goal despite a first and goal situation following a 53 yard catch and run from Ricky Jones.

The Hoosiers did make things interesting late in the second though, getting their own backup quarterback involved as Zander Diamont came in and tossed a perfect touchdown pass to Nick Westbrook from 36 yards out to tie things up.

The Foster Farms Bowl was always one of those postseason games that was pegged as a potential wild one given how the two offenses operate and the fact that both defenses were fairly stout during the year. If both teams can hang onto the ball in the second half, things could get very interesting out in the Bay Area.