Rutgers-Penn State notebook
New look for offense
UNIVERSITY PARK — Following a few weeks of a stale run game with an overpowered offensive line that severely limited any Saquon Barkley success, Penn State switched up its offensive look against Rutgers by adding a pistol set that places McSorley a few yards behind the center with Barkley behind the quarterback.
The set allows Barkley to have a running start and build some momentum, something different than in past weeks when Barkley receives the handoff from a stationary position next to McSorley in shotgun.
“It was a little bit of a wrinkle that we felt like we could do,” McSorley said. “We felt like some teams were keying on our back alignment as far as where to set the front. We just decided to try and change it up. For us to have that wrinkle is good.”
Even with the new offensive look, Barkley still struggled to make headway in the run game. His 35 yards on 14 carries with a long rush of 11 yards were far from the spectacular play that marked Barkley at the beginning of the season, but the shift to the pistol did allow McSorley to continue to be a versatile threat.
“(McSorley) was able to scramble around and extend drives today with his feet,” Rutgers coach Chris Ash said. “He was able to score a touchdown rushing today. He is a good player and we struggled to tackle him at times.”
The quarterback was effective in the option game, leading the team in rushing with 62 yards on 13 attempts. Tommy Stevens also returned on three different occasions to the offense in the red zone after not appearing in the Ohio State and Michigan State games.
“I don’t think there is any doubt that people have a plan for us based on Saquon’s alignment,” Franklin said. “You’re looking for things that’ll give you the best chance to be successful. We’ve got a lot of different ways that we can disguise (Barkley’s) alignment. It’ll be important that we continue to do that, whether it’s shifting, whether it’s motioning.”
After relinquishing his grip of the Heisman Trophy with lackluster performances in the past few games, Saquon Barkley failed to make up any serious ground in the conversation with his performance against Rutgers. Barkley finished the first half with five carries for negative three yards rushing and zero receptions, his fifth half of zero or fewer rushing yards of the season. Mix in a negative yardage reception to begin the third quarter, and Barkley did not have positive offensive yards until 10:16 remaining in the third quarter.
With an impressive 166-yard, three touchdown display from running back Bryce Love in Stanford’s upset win over No. 9 Washington on Friday night, Love added another signature performance to his Heisman campaign while battling a gimpy ankle that forced him to miss a game earlier in the season. Washington entered the game ranked first in the country in yards allowed and second in scoring defense.
Barkley’s lack of marquee matchups remaining on the schedule paired with national spotlight games for frontrunner Baker Mayfield and Notre Dame’s Josh Adams likely means Barkley’s Heisman hopes may officially have been laid to rest.
Linebacker Manny Bowen, Penn State’s third leading tackler entering Saturday’s matchup, was not dressed for action. Bowen recorded eight tackles in Penn State’s loss to Michigan State. Franklin stated after the game that Bowen did not play due to a violation of team rules.
In his place stepped senior Brandon Smith.
“(Smith) is another veteran player that was very productive,” Franklin said. “(He) was one of the most well-respected players in our program both on and off the field. He went out and played at a very high level.”
In Bowen’s absence Smith didn’t skip a beat. The senior’s 10 tackles were the second most in the game, trailing only Jason Cabinda’s 11.
“I was just excited to have the opportunity,” Smith said. “Obviously playing well in a different spot, adjusting to different angles and different leverage, it’s exciting, and I’m excited for the opportunity.”
Former Nittany Lion proposes
Former offensive tackle Chance Sorrell had a homecoming to remember.
Having last played in 2015, Sorrell, now a member of the strength coaching staff proposed to his girlfriend, Kayla Lonergan, on the field following the game. To the delight of those watching, she said yes.
Rutgers bus fire
Perhaps foreshadowing Rutgers’ performance on the field, the Scarlet Knights’ arrival to Penn State on Friday was delayed after one of the buses in the team convoy had a tire catch fire. A Pennsylvania state trooper was injured when the tire exploded as he attempted to extinguish the fire. The fire occurred on I-80 in Dennison Township. No member of the Rutgers football team or staff was injured.
Rutgers offense struggles
The Rutgers offense struggled to catch fire all day. Content in the first half to continually rush the ball up the middle for minimal gains and try to preserve an early 6-0 lead, the Scarlet Knights failed to make any dynamic plays that seriously threatened the Nittany Lion defense.
“(Penn State) is a good team,” Ash said. “They weren’t number two in the country at one point this year without a reason. They have talented players and that has a lot to do with it. When you play some of the elite teams in this league that have superior DBs and they decide to man you up or press you up like that, that it is a challenge and we have to continue to look at ways schematically to help.”
Senior running back Robert Martin led all ball carriers with 71 yards on the ground.
“The defense I thought played really well against a team that had been running the ball on people here lately,” Franklin said.
Quarterback Giovanni Rescigno faced a strong rush all day. Despite only being sacked once, the junior was forced to scramble and dance around the pocket, seriously limiting any ability to connect with his receivers. Rescigno finished with only seven completions and 43 yards through the air but did find modest success on the ground in rushing for 43 yards.
“It’s an issue with a bunch of wide receivers that we have had throughout the year,” Ash said. “When (Penn State) decides to mass up and press us up, we have had our challenge of creating separation and when we do, the inability to connect with the throw, that’s it.”
News and notes
PK Tyler Davis broke the program record for most consecutive extra points made with 122…. Kevin Givens (Altoona) started his second straight game at defensive end.
— Compiled by Thomas Schlarp