Harvey Levine/FOS

Penn State vs. Rutgers: FOS Game Breakdown

What the most serious Nittany Lion fans need to know about PSU's Saturday night blowout of the Scarlet Knights.

PISCATAWAY, N.J. — Following an afternoon in which two other Big Ten powers had scares thrown into them, No. 8 Penn State rolled into High Point Solutions Stadium here intent on avoiding a letdown vs. struggling Rutgers.

For an oh-so-brief moment, it looked like the Nittany Lions might have their share of trouble, too. Miles Sanders fumbled the opening kickoff and the Scarlet Knights recovered at the PSU 19. http://www.scout.com/college/penn-state/story/1719381-follow-your-surgin...

Then James Franklin's defense took the field. It stuffed an end around for a loss of seven and eventually forced a fourth-and-17. David Bonagura pushed a 45-yard field attempt wide right.

And a tone had been set. 

In improving to 9-2 overall and 7-1 in the Big Ten, the Nittany Lions held RU (2-9, 0-8) to five first downs, 39 rushing yards (on 33 attempts) and 87 total yards.

With an Ohio State win over Michigan and a PSU win over Michigan State next Saturday, the Nittany Lions will earn a spot in the Big Ten championship game Dec. 3 in Indianapolis.

But before looking ahead, let’s take a quick look back at the domination of the Knights.

MEN OF THE HOUR 

Tough to pick one man here, as the PSU defense put forth a true team effort. Thirty one Lions made at least one tackle, but none of them had more than five (Brandon Bell). We’re not sure we’ve ever seen anything like that.

CLOSE SECOND 

On a blustery night with a lot of wind, Penn State K Tyler Davis was somehow four of four on field goals — including one where he was forced to kick the laces. On one of his PAT’s, he actually stopped mid-motion to allow H Bill Fessler to get the ball set properly, before popping the pigskin through the uprights. 

CLOSE THIRD

RB Saquon Barkley had 117 all-purpose yards before leaving the game after a hard hit in the third quarter. Afterward, Franklin said Barkley could have gone back in.

TURNING POINT

Juwan Johnson’s blocked punt early in the third quarter gave the Lions a short field and set up a TD run by Barkley. That made it 16-0, and the way the PSU defense was playing the game was pretty much over.

SOLID STRATEGY

In the second half, when the weather really got nasty, PSU ran the ball 29 times and passed only 10.

NUMBERS GAME

• RU was outscored by Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State and Penn State by a combined margin of 224-0.

WHAT'S UP WITH?

• PSU playing — and running — QB Trace McSorley in the fourth quarter while leading 25-0. There was no way the Knights were going to stage that sort of rally. As important as McSorley is to this offense, it was not worth risking him getting injured late.

• PSU throwing it 23 times and running it only 20 in the first half. RU has the worst rushing defense in the Big Ten. Further, McSorley was not sharp (thanks in part to the weather getting ugly).

• PSU’s center Brian Gaia firing a high shotgun snap over McSorley’s head on a fourth-and-1 from the RU 2 in the second quarter. Gaia has been very good on snaps this season. But if the rationale for never going under center is that the Lions never practice it, the center in question better be on the money with the shotgun snap EVERY time in short-yardage situations.

• Rutgers not using running QB Tylin Oden more. The offense seemed at least a bit effective at the times he replaced starter Giovanno Rescigno.

LOST IN THE SHUFFLE

• P Blake Gillikin only had three attempts. But he averaged 47.7 yards.

• Mike Gesicki set a Penn State season record for catches by a tight end (he now has 42 for 456 yards and two scores). What a turnaround the junior has had from his sophomore season.

DID YOU NOTICE?

• Veteran Derek Dowrey replaced Connor McGovern at RG early in the game. McGovern was limited in practice last week due to an undisclosed injury and was held out of most of this game as a precaution.

• Freshman OT Will Fries made the trip but did not dress. Franklin was vague on why Fries was not in uniform.

• Freshman OG Michal Menet traveled for the first time this season. He dressed but did not play, maintaining his redshirt. 

UNANSWERED QUESTION 

Can the Nittany Lions close the regular season on a very strong note vs. the Spartans at Beaver Stadium next week? FYI, Late Saturday night the expected kickoff time of 3:30 p.m. was announced. OSU and Michigan square off at noon, so PSU will not exactly what is (or is not) on the line by the time it faces MSU.


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PISCATAWAY, N.J. — Following an afternoon in which two other Big Ten powers had scares thrown into them, No. 8 Penn State rolled into High Point Solutions Stadium here intent on avoiding a letdown vs. struggling Rutgers.

For an oh-so-brief moment, it looked like the Nittany Lions might have their share of trouble, too. Miles Sanders fumbled the opening kickoff and the Scarlet Knights recovered at the PSU 19. http://www.scout.com/college/penn-state/story/1719381-follow-your-surgin...

Then James Franklin's defense took the field. It stuffed an end around for a loss of seven and eventually forced a fourth-and-17. David Bonagura pushed a 45-yard field attempt wide right.

And a tone had been set.

In improving to 9-2 overall and 7-1 in the Big Ten, the Nittany Lions held RU (2-9, 0-8) to five first downs, 39 rushing yards (on 33 attempts) and 87 total yards.

With an Ohio State win over Michigan and a PSU win over Michigan State next Saturday, the Nittany Lions will earn a spot in the Big Ten championship game Dec. 3 in Indianapolis.

But before looking ahead, let’s take a quick look back at the domination of the Knights.

MEN OF THE HOUR

Tough to pick one man here, as the PSU defense put forth a true team effort. Thirty one Lions made at least one tackle, but none of them had more than five (Brandon Bell). We’re not sure we’ve ever seen anything like that.

CLOSE SECOND

On a blustery night with a lot of wind, Penn State K Tyler Davis was somehow four of four on field goals — including one where he was forced to kick the laces. On one of his PAT’s, he actually stopped mid-motion to allow H Bill Fessler to get the ball set properly, before popping the pigskin through the uprights.

CLOSE THIRD

RB Saquon Barkley had 117 all-purpose yards before leaving the game after a hard hit in the third quarter. Afterward, Franklin said Barkley could have gone back in.

TURNING POINT

Juwan Johnson’s blocked punt early in the third quarter gave the Lions a short field and set up a TD run by Barkley. That made it 16-0, and the way the PSU defense was playing the game was pretty much over.

SOLID STRATEGY

In the second half, when the weather really got nasty, PSU ran the ball 29 times and passed only 10.

NUMBERS GAME

• RU was outscored by Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State and Penn State by a combined margin of 224-0.

WHAT'S UP WITH?

• PSU playing — and running — QB Trace McSorley in the fourth quarter while leading 25-0. There was no way the Knights were going to stage that sort of rally. As important as McSorley is to this offense, it was not worth risking him getting injured late.

• PSU throwing it 23 times and running it only 20 in the first half. RU has the worst rushing defense in the Big Ten. Further, McSorley was not sharp (thanks in part to the weather getting ugly).

• PSU’s center Brian Gaia firing a high shotgun snap over McSorley’s head on a fourth-and-1 from the RU 2 in the second quarter. Gaia has been very good on snaps this season. But if the rationale for never going under center is that the Lions never practice it, the center in question better be on the money with the shotgun snap EVERY time in short-yardage situations.

• Rutgers not using running QB Tylin Oden more. The offense seemed at least a bit effective at the times he replaced starter Giovanno Rescigno.

LOST IN THE SHUFFLE

• P Blake Gillikin only had three attempts. But he averaged 47.7 yards.

• Mike Gesicki set a Penn State season record for catches by a tight end (he now has 42 for 456 yards and two scores). What a turnaround the junior has had from his sophomore season.

DID YOU NOTICE?

• Veteran Derek Dowrey replaced Connor McGovern at RG early in the game. McGovern was limited in practice last week due to an undisclosed injury and was held out of most of this game as a precaution.

• Freshman OT Will Fries made the trip but did not dress. Franklin was vague on why Fries was not in uniform.

• Freshman OG Michal Menet traveled for the first time this season. He dressed but did not play, maintaining his redshirt.

UNANSWERED QUESTION

Can the Nittany Lions close the regular season on a very strong note vs. the Spartans at Beaver Stadium next week? FYI, Late Saturday night the expected kickoff time of 3:30 p.m. was announced. OSU and Michigan square off at noon, so PSU will not exactly what is (or is not) on the line by the time it faces MSU.

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