Penn State run­ning with power to vic­to­ries

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - SPORTS - By Travis John­son

As games wear on, Saquon Barkley can sense when de­fend­ers want no part of him. Hands rest­ing on hips is a good in­di­ca­tor. that Penn State’s of­fense has op­po­nents on their heels.

STATE COL­LEGE, PA. >> As games wear on, Saquon Barkley can sense when de­fend­ers want no part of him.

Hands rest­ing on hips is a good in­di­ca­tor. La­bored breath­ing at the bot­tom of piles is an­other that Penn State’s of­fense has op­po­nents on their heels.

Such was the case Satur­day in Penn State’s 4114 win over Iowa. It has been a trend in the mid­dle of the sea­son for the No. 12 Nit­tany Lions (7-2, 5-1 Big Ten, No. 12 CFP). They’ve de­vel­oped a killer in­stinct and of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Joe Moor­head’s of­fense is putting teams away em­phat­i­cally.

“You can kind of see it in the de­fense’s de­meanor when you’re gash­ing them,” Barkley said. “Coach Moor­head in­stills in the of­fense to have that killer men­tal­ity. To fin­ish them.”

Penn State’s long­est con­fer­ence win­ning streak since 2011 has been fu­eled by an of­fense that is tak­ing ad­van­tage of late turnovers and is pow­er­ing through de­fen­sive fronts with a two-headed rush­ing at­tack that also fea­tures quar­ter­back Trace McSor­ley whose com­ple­tion per­cent­age is at its best over the fi­nal 15 min­utes.

“That’s some­thing that we kind of pride our­selves on — not too heav­ily re­ly­ing on one thing,” wide re­ceiver Chris God­win said. “We work re­ally hard in prac­tice to come out and prove that and I think we did a great job of do­ing so.”

The Nit­tany Lions are av­er­ag­ing 41.2 points per game over their last four and are scor­ing more than half of those points in the fi­nal two quar­ters. They’ve added 21 points off of three fourth-quar­ter turnovers dur­ing the win­ning streak in which their of­fen­sive line is mov­ing the line of scrim­mage.

Not count­ing kneel downs, Penn State is av­er­ag­ing 135 yards in each of its last four fourth quar­ters and has shred­ded de­fenses with seven plays of 20-plus yards in that span.

Barkley’s sensational skill set has been a ma­jor fac­tor. The sopho­more back has scored on long plays to be­gin each of the last two fourth quar­ters. A 44-yard re­cep­tion against the Hawkeyes was the lat­est de­fla­tor and he turned in an 81-yard run through an ex­hausted Purdue de­fense two weeks ago.

“Our of­fen­sive line is do­ing a great job at the line of scrim­mage,” God­win said. “As the game starts to wear down, they start to put more and more pres­sure on teams. You can kind of sense that they just want to get it over with.”

Slow starts that dogged the Nit­tany Lions early in the sea­son also taught them a valu­able les­son.

“We know how it is to be a sec­ond-half team, how to be able to be down and come back in the games that were over, so when you get the chance and you’re up early, you’ve got to step on the pedal and fin­ish them.”

Although Moor­head’s of­fense is typ­i­cally de­scribed as “up-tempo,” Penn State ac­tu­ally uses a good por­tion of the play clock rather than rush from snap to snap. The Nit­tany Lions never hud­dle, how­ever, and do re­quire play­ers to get set quickly so they have time to look to the side­line for Moor­head’s play calls after he’s sur­veyed the de­fense.

An off­sea­son ded­i­cated to nu­tri­tion helped of­fen­sive line­men re­place fat with lean mus­cle in or­der to han­dle the rig­ors of such an of­fense in which they spend more time in their stances.

“We can play with any de­fense,” of­fen­sive guard Ryan Bates said. “We’re more con­di­tioned than any de­fense that we play be­cause we’ve got so much prac­tice and so much con­di­tion­ing in this of­fense. We’ve come a long way and we’re get­ting pretty close to per­fect­ing it.”


Penn State run­ning back Saquon Barkley leaps over Iowa de­fend­ers dur­ing an NCAA col­lege foot­ball game in State Col­lege, Pa., Satur­day. Penn State won, 41-14.

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