Harvey Levine/FOS

Penn State Offense Getting In Tune

In trouncing Iowa at Beaver Stadium Saturday, the Nittany Lions accumulated more than 500 yards of total offense for the second straight week.

Five straight victories. Two straight weeks in which the offense has churned out more than 500 yards. A quarterback who hasn’t turned the ball over in five games, and a running back who surpassed the 1,000-yard mark for the second straight season.

It doesn’t often look like this. But that is how it looks at Penn State right now, after Saturday’s 41-14 rout of Iowa.

Nittany Lions coach James Franklin isn’t about to savor the view — “We will never be satisfied, ever,” he said — but certainly he likes what he sees.

Or, perhaps, hears.

“Everybody is singing the same song,” he said, “and everybody’s singing it in the same tune right now.”

It is quite a rhythm, to be sure. One week after amassing 511 yards in a 62-24 victory over Purdue, the Lions (7-2) collected 599, their most against a Big Ten opponent since the 1994 juggernaut put up 653 against Michigan State. http://www.scout.com/college/penn-state/story/1719381-psu-fans-now-get-s...

Saquon Barkley rushed for 167, including a 57-yard touchdown, and caught a 44-yard TD pass. Trace McSorley threw for 240 and two scores, and ran for another touchdown.

The quarterback was, however, at a loss to say what tune he might be hearing in his head right now.

“I don’t know if there’s necessarily one single song,” he said, “but I definitely do echo what (Franklin) said: The chemistry right now is as high as it’s been. We’re all pulling the rope in the same direction, which has led to a lot of the success we’ve been able to have.”

OK, so how ‘bout tight end Mike Gesicki? What does he hear, echoing about the huddle?

“The fight song,” he said.

Which is literally true when PSU plays at home, but not the answer we’re looking for.

Barkley, at least, was willing to play along, after raising his season rushing total to 1,055 yards and his career total to 2,131, 15th on the all-time list. 

As a sophomore.

Clearly he’s dancing as fast as he can, at one point even leaping backward over a defender to finish off a run. And whatever he’s listening to, it must be good. 

“I’m a big Drake, Meek Mill fan,” he said.

He settled on Drake’s “Fake Love” as a favorite. Barkley didn’t seem to be sending a message to the reporters clustered around him, hanging on his every word (much less the fans who have come to adore him). But he could have, had he wanted to, given that the lyrics include, “I got people showin’ fake love to me, straight up to my face, straight up to my face.”

His own choice of metaphors for the Lions’ current play veered in another direction.

“We talk about writing our story,” he said. “The pencil’s in our hand.”

His chapter is in big, bold letters. On Saturday his TD run came in the second quarter, his TD catch in the fourth. In between there was that backward-jumping, Fosbury Floppish carry for a gain of 14 on his first attempt of the second half.

“That was special,” Franklin said. “I don’t know if I’ve ever seen that before.”

Barkley didn’t even realize he had done it, until he looked up at one of the video screens while standing on the sideline moments later. He turned to backup quarterback Tommy Stevens, who later scored on a 13-yard run of his own, and Stevens could only shake his head. http://www.scout.com/college/penn-state/story/1724717-penn-state-vs-iowa...

Barkley was pretty much doing the same in the interview room.

“I mean, it’s cool, I guess you could say,” he said. “I just try to do all I can to break tackles.”

He finished with 211 all-purpose yards after generating a career-high 277 against the Boilermakers, making him the first PSU back to eclipse 200 in back to back games since Larry Johnson in 2002. His touchdown reception was not only the longest of his career but the longest by a PSU back since Evan Royster had a 49-yarder in 2009.

Barkley was not about to entertain Heisman talk, saying he doesn’t think about it, it’s out of his control, etc. The award would appear to be Lamar Jackson’s to lose, but if Barkley keeps this up, he might at least find himself seated next to the Louisville quarterback in the Downtown Athletic Club next month.

“As a team we believe that he deserves that,” McSorley said. “If he ends up being in that talk, that’s awesome, because he’s one of our brothers.”

Barkley and Co. were operating behind a line that took another hit when tackle Brendan Mahon, amid a terrific season, was lost to a foot injury three plays into the game, never to return. Chasz Wright took his place and the Lions didn’t skip a beat. All five of their touchdown drives consumed 3:26 or less. McSorley was masterful. Barkley was Barkley.

“I’ve said it before,” Gesicki said. “We’ve just got to let 2-6 be 2-6.”

Barkley, the No. 26 in question, always appreciates the help.

“Any time I have a big rushing game,” he said, “I’ll feed (the linemen) doughnuts or something like that, just to let them know I’m grateful for them. … I don’t want them to think that I’m doing this on my own, or I’m the man.”

There are 22 or 23 O-linemen on the team, he said, and he picks up two dozen doughnuts for them.

One per customer, then. Gotta maintain that fighting trim as they keep moving along, singing a song.


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