Penn State runs past “rival” Rutgers, 28-3
State College, PA – Penn State freshman RB Saquon Barkley rushed for 195 yards and two touchdowns on 21 carries, and fellow senior running mate Akeel Lynch added 120 yards and a TD on 10 carries to lead the Nittany Lions, 28-3, in the Big Ten opener for both teams. Rutgers insists that this is their “rivalry” while Penn Staters evidently don’t see it that way. A review of the game’s final statistics would be misleading upon first glance. Rutgers amassed 20 first downs compared to 17, 251 passing yards to 141, and they led time of possession 32:39 to 27:41, but long gains of 75 and 54 yards by Lynch and Barkley respectively paced the Lions to shorter times of possession and a dominant ground game of 330 yards to RU’s meager 43. The Penn State line opened some huge holes through the RU defensive front which Barkley hit particularly quick. His QB Christian Hackenberg (10 of 19 for 141 yards and 1 INT) continued to misfire on multiple occasions with little pressure applied as he had done when we saw him play against Temple in this year’s opener. He was not sacked as the Knight defense was nowhere as quick or as dynamic as Temple’s. Aside from “Hack”, however, the Lions seem to be headed in the right direction with the insertion of Barkley in their backfield since.
Penn State got off to an inept start during its first series with two false starts and a chop block impeding their progress and forcing a punt. The defense played aggressively and held the RU offense in check forcing punts on their first five possessions of the first half.
Early in the second period, the Lions drove 80 yards with WR DeAndre Thompkins taking a hand off on a sweep from the right all the way around left end for its initial lead of 7-0. Like the Temple game, PSU confirmed it was conceding that it could not protect Hackenberg adequately to implement a long passing game. It relied solely on short out passes mostly into the flats, but his accuracy has a lot to be desired. Guest Game analyst Frank Scarpa (Rutgers –Newark) noted the Scarlet Knight secondary was allowing some big cushions for the Lion receivers. Eventually, PSU noted the same and took advantage from its own ten as Hack connected with WR DaeSean Hamilton on a quick slant out for a 48-yard gain to the Scarlet 42. Moving down to the 15, Barkley avoided several tackles after hitting a hole quickly for a 15-yard TD run to extend the home team lead, 14-0, with 2:00 left in the first. The Lions took over after an RU punt with 1:04 remaining. A huge hole opened on the left side and Lynch burst through to take it all the way for a 75-yard TD run for a 21-0 lead. The Lion ground game looked as it had early against Temple when it had a 10-0 lead in the opener, but as this game progressed, the running game looked to be building some more momentum. Going into this game, the expectation was that PSU would be able to take advantage of replacements in the Knight secondary filling in for starters kicked off the team recently for criminal activities, but instead the Lions’ O-line seemed to be able to dominate along the front to give the Lion running game the push that they needed. An interception by Lion CB Grant Haley finished the first half shut out by the Nittany Lion D.
In the third period, the teams exchanged punts, and State thwarted the next RU drive on a tipped pass intercepted by CB John Reid who returned it to the Rutgers 35. Some offensive ineptitude by PSU turned this one over on downs. After a sideline interference penalty to start the drive at the 50, on a third and one at the RU 41, Hackenberg threw a pass into the ground on a long pass left at the feet of his intended receiver Saeed Blacknall. On the ensuing fourth down, Hack made a futile attempt on a QB sneak. Instead of surging forward, he seemed to go straight down to come up significantly short of the first to turn the ball over. The score remained unchanged entering the final period. The Scarlet Knights were on the move entering the final period with a drive starting from its 13.
The Knights drove to PSU’s 11 before a delay of game penalty set them back five more yards. Temporary HC Norries Wilson, former Columbia HC now Associate HC at Rutgers, taking over for suspended HC Kyle Flood for not adhering to university guidelines regarding contacts with professors, decided to settle for three points. Kyle Federico converted to avoid the shutout, 21-3. The Lions’ next drive into Scarlet Knight territory ended in futility with Hackenberg floating a pass well beyond his intended receiver that was picked by S Anthony Cioffi with a leaping catch. RU’s next possession was stopped by three consecutive PSU sacks of Laviano by DE Carl Nassib, SS Jordan Lucas, and DT Austin Johnson for a total of -29 yards. Around this time, the “striped” Blue and White stands led by the student PSU section had begun chanting, “We’re not rivals…We’re not rivals…” indicating their disdain for another program that thinks this is a rivalry and only defeated the Lions twice in their sporadic history, the last win back in 1988 (does PSU consider Temple a rival now?). Even RU fan and GGA Frank Scarpa said that if the Knights want to make this a rivalry, they should start winning some games to show they are worthy of being considered one. PSU took over from their 30. Barkley bolted for a 54 yard gain before being forced out of bounds, and he carried again for the 16-yard TD to finish the scoring for the day, 28-3. Penn State takes a 2-1, 1-0 record into next week while RU falls for the second week in a row to 1-2, 0-1.
Next week Rutgers hosts Kansas (0-2) in a game that was scheduled during Charlie Weiss’s tenure in Lawrence in a game that was probably arranged to help the NJ native do some potential recruiting in the Garden State. He’s no longer coaching at KU since he was released last September. We’re unaware if he’s moved on to some other coaching position yet. The Jayhawks are 0-2 with losses to FCS South Dakota and up and coming Memphis. The winner of this one will be taking home one of a few they have a chance if winning for the balance of this season. We return to State College this Saturday for our last trip there this season to see the Lions face San Diego State (1-2) for a 3:30 pm kick off. We look forward for a chance to catch up with our good Aztec friend Tom Ables, the greatest Aztec fan of all time. Tom’s has missed only two SDSU football games since 1946! He’s our idol. Tom tells us that RB Donnel Pumphrey is the key to the San Diego State offense. On 68 carries thus far, he has 249 yards and two TDs – not as good as had been hoped for.