Saquon Barkley Shines in Home Opener Win
On a soggy day in Beaver Stadium, the Penn State Nittany Lions (1-1) defeated the Buffalo Bulls (1-1), in a sloppy, annoying game whose final score of 27-14 is enough to give many fans hope that Penn State is alive and well. On the other hand, this was Buffalo, so reel yourselves in. The big story of the game was not the expected win (is any win expected after Temple?), but instead the emergence of a nascent star in true freshman running back Saquon Barkley.
Barkley’s hurdling run in the second half in itself is highlight reel material, but this was just one component of a sparkling 115 yard day in which he averaged 9.6 yards per carry against a befuddled Buffalo Bulls defense. He was by far the star of the game.
The first half of the game sucked completely, but the worst suckage occurred when arguably the most effective Traffic Cone, Andrew Nelson, went down with a serious injury. Nelson had been moved to left tackle from the other side to replace the JuCo behemoth Paris Palmer, who sucked in the Temple game. At the close of the half, Nelson got rolled up and went down. James Franklin, as usual, was closed-mouthed about the nature of the injury and how long Nelson would be out, but this was and will continue to be a serious blow to an already compromised (to say the least) unit.
Traficonically speaking, these boys didn’t look too bad against Buffalo, but please put that into perspective. This is SUNY Buffalo we’re talking about, perhaps the cupcakiest of the cupcakes. I know we’re all looking for small signs of hope at this point, but this is not the game where those signs are very meaningful.
The game went about as I expected. The first half literally put me to sleep. The second half was more entertaining, probably because the Lions wore down the undersized and inexperienced defense of Buffalo. The thirteen point final margin is exactly what I predicted, although I had the final score 23-10 instead of 27-14. Same shit, though. I said take the under; the point total was indeed under the 53 established by the gamblers. So, yay me!
Mike Gesicki had better learn how to fucking catch a football. Nuff said there.
Christian Hackenberg had a not-too-bad day, finishing with a QBR of 58.6. This was certainly not the day to be looking for a 300 yard performance from the Hack. He wound up with a fairly pedestrian 14-27 for 128 yards and one touchdown — and no interceptions! (He tempted fate a couple of times, though. He attempts throws that even pros wouldn’t try — for damn good reasons!) Need I remind you, though, that this was against SUNY Buffalo?
The Penn State defense showed some signs of life and should improve even more when injured cornerback Grant Haley returns. Jason Cabinda did a serviceable job at linebacker in the absence of Nyeem Wartman-White. The defensive line played up to its usual standards; this week’s star was Carl Nassib.
I dunno about you folks, but as for this turkey, I want to be seeing a whole helluva lot more of Saquon Barkley! I can only hope that the Traffic Cones support the running game well enough against real defenses to give him the running room he needs. This is going to be fun to watch.
I’ll be back later in the week to preview and predict the conference opener, the Stripe-Out vs. Rutgers.