WEST LAFAYETTE — So this is what ranked teams do after an overmatched opponent hangs around for a half or so.
Penn State, back in the Associated Press Top 25 (at No. 24) this week for the first time since the program was slammed with NCAA sanctions, had its hands full with struggling Purdue through 30 minutes at a very empty Ross-Ade Stadium Saturday afternoon. The score was knotted 17-17 at the break, and that was only after the Boilermakers missed a late field goal.
Then the second half started.
Suddenly looking every bit the ranked team, James Franklin’s outfit dropped the hammer on Purdue with 24 third-quarter points. The final ended up being 62-24, and that was with reserves playing much of the final quarter.
At 6-2 overall and 4-1 in the Big Ten, the Lions became bowl eligible more quickly than anyone expected. Now it’s not a matter of if they will go bowling, but how attractive the postseason destination will be.
Here is our take on the game.
MAN OF THE HOUR
RB Saquon Barkley destroyed the Boilermakers on the ground and through the air. Once he started getting to the edge in the second half, things got ugly. He finished with a career-high 207 yards on just 18 carries and 70 more yards on three catches.
Lion QB Trace McSorley was sharp when he had to be, hitting on 12 of 23 passes for 254 yards and career-high three TDs. He spread the ball around to six different receivers and a seventh drew a big pass interference penalty. Amazingly, McSorley has not committed a turnover in 19 quarters now.
LB Jason Cabinda had a team-high nine tackles and came down with a facemask issue at a key time. Read on for that line to make sense.
With the game tied 17-17 early in the third, backup LB Brandon Smith came through with the game’s first turnover — an interception — and returned it 22 yards to the Purdue 24. McSorley later hit WR Chris Godwin for a 1-yard TD and the Boilers never recovered. Smith was only in the game because the starter at his position — Cabinda — was getting his facemask fixed.
• In the second half, PSU began many plays with an empty backfield, only to see Barkley dart next to McSorley before the ball was snapped. This confused the Boilermakers. They held Barkley to 10 carries for 34 yards in the first half. You saw his final numbers above.
• As noted earlier, Lion coach James Franklin got a ton of reserves action in the final quarter. That was good for the inexperienced players and gave the regulars some time off in advance of next week’s home game vs. a physical Iowa bunch.
• The Lions finished with 511 yards of total offense. They averaged 8.1 yards per play.
• McSorley averaged nearly 10 yards per passing attempt.
• The Lions were credited with 71 tackles. The Boilermakers were only credited with 43.
• Barkley’s backups — Andre Robinson (two rushing TDs), Miles Sanders (receiving TD) and Mark Allen (rushing TD) — all scored. So the running back accounted for 36 points.
LOST IN THE SHUFFLE
PSU’s offensive line gave up an early sack, but Purdue never got to the QB again. This unit keeps getting better and better.
WHAT'S UP WITH?
• Penn State continuing to play sluggishly in the first half of road games. Of course, the Lions made up for it in the second half here.
• All of those PSU penalties in the first half (7 for 42 yards).
• Some more spotty tackling throughout the game (OK, we’re nitpicking).
DID YOU NOTICE?
• Usually a starter, WR DaeSean Hamilton did not play until the second quarter. He was replaced in the starting lineup by Juwan Johnson. Johnson did not make a catch but did draw a PI penalty.
• CB Amani Oruwariye was back after missing two games with an undisclosed injury. He made one tackle.
• Lions who made the trip but did not dress included DT Parker Cothren, DB Nick Scott and WR DeAndre Thompkins.
Can Penn State run the regular-season table?