McSorley Sets Penn State TD Record
The blustery Homecoming weather at St. Joe Memorial Stadium at Beaver kept all but the hardiest students in their dorms. This was apparent by the empty student section in the top corner of the east stands. The cold weather must have frozen delicate little fingers, toes, and brains on the field, too, in the first quarter, but the #14 Nittany Lions (8-2, 5-2 Big Ten) eventually shook off their morning frost and went on to prevail over the Rutgers Scarlet Knights (4-6, 3-4 Big Ten), 35-6.
The big story of the game (positive one, anyhow) is that Trace McSorley set a new Penn State record for career TDs with 66 and then went ahead later and broke it with #67.
Frozen Heads up the Ass
The first play of the game gave us all heartburn, as we watched Saquon Barkley either misjudge the short opening kickoff or decide he could field it on the bounce. That moment of misjudgment or indecision gave Rutgers the ball at the Penn State 21. Fortunately, the PSU defense hadn’t succumbed to the cold, as they were able to hold Rutgers to a three-pointer.
However, after trading punts, that same defense allowed the Scarlet Knights to march 57 yards in 15 plays to the Penn State 8, then stiffened to once again hold Rutgers to a field goal.
And that was all the scoring the Scarlet Knights could manage.
Offensive Line Woes Aren’t Going Away
Saquon Barkley couldn’t manage positive yardage rushing in the first half behind PSU’s defective offensive line. The interior line is just plain bad, and Mike Gesicki was seen whiffing on blocks he should have made. Announcer and former Nittany Lion and NFLer Matt Millen said Gesicki’s blocking was “embarrassing”. In the post game interview, James Franklin confirmed that he recognized it was a problem when he said “at tight end, too”.
As Millen opined, Gesicki is a talented receiver, but he has to straighten out his blocking if he expects to succeed at “the next level” — which, of course, means “playing on Sundays”. (Which, of course, means the NFL.)
Firepower Was Too Much for Rutgers
After Rutgers could only muster six points, Penn State came back with an unanswered 35. Things loosened up for McSorley, his receivers, and Saquon Barkley in the second half. Although Barkley wound up with only 35 rushing yards on 14 carries, he scored two touchdowns, including one in his spectacular, vaulting style — one for the highlight reels.
DaeSean Hamilton added a touchdown, as did Mike Gesicki, who got wide open when he faked a block and then loped into the end zone uncovered. The faked block didn’t look much different from his normal non-blocks, so he covered his intentions very effectively.
Trace McSorley wound up 16-21 for 214 yards, with two touchdowns and no interceptions. In fact, there were no turnovers by either side, because that opening kickoff fiasco is considered an on-side kick. (Free ball, both sides have a right to it, etc.)
Once Penn State’s mighty offense got rolling, Rutgers had no defensive answers.
PSU Defense Handled the Job
Although on several occasions, the pass rush couldn’t contain Rutgers junior quarterback Giovanni Rescigno when his receivers were covered downfield, the defense by and large did its job. Rutgers’ receivers were no match for the Penn State secondary, so Rescigno had no choice but to run for his life. He had a putrid day passing, 7-20 for 43 yards, and a somewhat better day running: 12 carries for 39 yards.
Rutgers had some modest success with the running game, which they needed with only 43 total yards passing. They mustered 157 on the ground.
Total yards were 304 for Penn State vs. 200 for Rutgers, and the PSU defense held the impotent Rutgers offense to 10 first downs.
Where We Go from Here
So, with “rivalry” Homecoming opponent Rutgers somewhat sloppily put away, we find ourselves with two games remaining. Next week, PSU will host Nebraska, and the week after, will travel to Maryland. Winning out is a possibility, as is an opportunity for improving the offensive line with those 15 and possibly more extra practices allowed if the Nittany Lions make the post-season, which they surely will. Winning out is a reachable goal, and it will help.
Elsewhere in the Big Ten
Moo U. was no help to our Big Ten hopes as they went down in flames to the Buckeyes, 48-3. tOSU still has the inside track to the East berth in Indianapolis, with only Illinois and Michigan remaining. Moo U. still has to play Maryland and Rutgers. In the West, as I write this, #20 Iowa is leading #8 Wisconsin 7-3, but it’s early.
I’ll be back mid-week with a preview and prediction for the game against Mighty Big Red who got clobbered by Minnesota 54-21 today.