Simpson gets shot at center
COLLEGE PARK, Md. — Backups know they’re always one play away from stepping into the starting lineup.
That play happened for Hollidaysburg Area High School’s Zach Simpson on Saturday during the Nittany Lions’ 66-3 victory over Maryland at Maryland Stadium.
Simpson, Penn State’s second-string center, was pressed into service in the second quarter after Connor McGovern left with a knee injury.
Even with McGovern out, Simpson’s shotgun snaps were crisp and on the money, and the Lions’ offense continued its domination of the Terps.
“I felt I did all right,” Simpson said afterward. “It was fun, for sure.”
Simpson entered the game with the Lions up 21-0, and they stretched their halftime lead to 31-0.
A redshirt sophomore, Simpson has earned two letters, mainly for his work on special teams. Saturday marked the first time he’s been called upon to snap while the outcome of the game was still being shaped.
“I felt good to be back in a game,” he said. “It’s the first time I’ve snapped (in a meaningful situation) since high school, really.”
Though McGovern left the sidelines for medical attention prior to halftime, he returned to start the third quarter.
“We talked at halftime, and I knew he was coming back,” Simpson said.
When Penn State padded its lead in the third quarter, Simpson returned with some of the second unit (guard Michael Menet, tackles Alex Gellerstedt and Andrew Nelson).
“It was nice to get back out there,” Simpson said. “At that point, the game was kind of out of reach.”
Simpson’s parents, Randy and Sheri, were in attendance, along with older brother Brandon. That added to his day.
“I messed up on a few things here and there, but for the most part I played hard,” Simpson said. “It helps when you win 66-3.”
Barkley discusses Heisman race
Saquon Barkley was the Heisman Trophy frontrunner a few weeks ago, but now his chances have diminished, and he’s not guaranteed to be invited to New York for the award ceremony Dec. 9.
“If I got invited to New York for the ceremony, that would be special,” he said. “I would be representing Penn State, I’d be representing my family and also representing myself. Obviously that’s something when you’re a little kid and you watch college football you dream about being in that situation like that. … It would be special to get invited, but if I didn’t get invited, it’s not going to hurt my feelings or I’m not going to be down or sad about it.”
Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield is now considered the overwhelming favorite to win the Heisman. Stanford running back Bryce Love and Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson, last year’s winner, also have gotten a lot of attention.
Barkley rushed for 77 yards and two scores on 16 carries during Penn State’s 66-3 win over Maryland on Saturday. Afterward, he was asked to reflect on the whirlwind of the Heisman race over the past couple of months.
“Obviously at one point I guess you could say I probably was the frontrunner, and now you can make the argument other people are the frontrunners for that award,” he said. “That just comes with the game, and that just comes with football.
“People are going to talk about you high at one point, and people are going to talk you down and up again and down again. One day you’re the greatest thing to walk this earth, and the next day people don’t even think you’re a legit back. That comes with the game of football. I’m just happy I’m surrounded with a great group of guys, people that will be my friends for life, people that will be brothers with me for life, and I’m surrounded by a great coaching staff.”
Plans during bowl break
Penn State’s coaches will focus on recruiting and development of younger players in the program over the next few weeks. Coach James Franklin said there will some developmental practices and noted there may be a scrimmage in Beaver Stadium for some of the younger guys.
“Right now we need some time off,” Franklin said. “It will be good for the players to get some down time.”
During the down time, the players will focus on academics and getting their weights back up after the grind of the season.
Terps finish in terrible fashion
It’s hard to believe, given what it showed Saturday night, that Maryland opened the season with a victory at Texas and actually had high hopes for the year.
The Terps got clobbered by Penn State and lost at home in humiliating fashion, so coach D.J. Durkin and his staff don’t have a whole lot of positives going into the offseason.
“I think it was pretty obvious that it was a poor performance,” Durkin said. “Poor execution, and it was a poorly coached team that went out there. … A season of adversity got to us, and it wasn’t our best effort that we put forth. You can’t do that, and I think a lesson for our players is that you only get so many opportunities, and in the game of football, you don’t get many of them.”
Durkin went on to add that “it feels like two different seasons,” and a big part of the Terps’ problems were all sorts of injuries at quarterback.
“That Texas game feels like it was about year ago right now,” Durkin said. “We definitely had a plan, a mindset and a culture and team build, but we got hit pretty hard with injuries at one spot.”
Max Bortenschlager completed 20-of-36 passes for 185 yards Saturday, but the Terps just didn’t do much offensively and had no chance to stop Penn State’s offense.
One positive for the Terps, receiver DJ Moore set a school single-season record Saturday with his 78th reception. The previous record of 77 was held by Geroy Simon, a Greater Johnstown High School product. Moore finished with eight catches for 100 yards Saturday.
News and notes
Kevin Givens recorded a sack and forced a fumble for the Lions. … Injured offensive tackle Ryan Bates returned to action for PSU late in the game, but at right tackle instead of his usual left spot. … WR and special teams player Irv Charles, who was a game-time decision for undisclosed reasons, did play. He dropped two passes that hit him right in the hands. … PK Tyler Davis made a field goal on his first attempt since the Michigan State game.
— Compiled by Cory Giger and Neil Rudel