Barkley ready to lead Penn State against Temple
STATE COLLEGE, PA. >> Saquon Barkley doesn’t care about statistics, except one he focused on in the days following Penn State’s loss to Pitt. The fumble. “I am tough on myself. It’s just how I am,” Barkley said. “I hold myself to a standard. This team holds itself to a standard and that fumble, I watched it a lot of times.”
It occurred in the third quarter and stalled Penn State’s comeback in Week 2. Now, after watching it “more than 10 times,” Barkley’s ready to face a Temple defense with an added focus on ball security. He’s also taking a more patient approach heading into a matchup that favors the Nittany Lions (1-1) at Beaver Stadium.
The Owls (1-1) are not the same defensive group that notched 10 sacks and held a Penn State running game — yet to deploy Barkley — to under 150 yards last season. They lost seven starters from that team and were shaky in their season opener allowing 329 rushing yards at nearly five yards per carry in a 28-13 loss to Army.
Although Barkley’s twogame rushing totals don’t seem befitting for a player with his ability to bounce outside and gain yards after contact, he’s picked up valuable yardage between the tackles. All four of his rushing touchdowns against Pitt were of the tough, grinding type and all were less than three yards.
“I feel like I’ve matured in that area too, taking what the defense gives you, not trying to make too much,” Barkley said. “If it’s two, just stick your head in there and drive to get the two. I’m not really concerned on the yards I get. I know I haven’t put up crazy stat numbers but I really don’t care because we’re still putting up 30-some points per game.”
Penn State plans to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Joe Paterno’s first game, festivities that have touched sensitive nerves to supporters of the late coach and those offended by honoring him given his role in the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal. Penn State says the commemoration will highlight the players more than Paterno himself.
Thomas to return?
Although it appeared running back Jahad Thomas was on the mend from a dislocated left thumb suffered in training camp, the Owls could be without their best player for a thirdstraight game. Thomas returned to practice earlier this week but left Tuesday’s session favoring his thumb after making a catch.
Thomas rushed for 1,262 yards and 17 touchdowns last season.
Penn State is dealing with injuries on defense.
Starting middle linebacker Jason Cabinda will likely miss his secondstraight game with a right hand injury. He was not suited up during the portion of the team’s Wednesday practice and coach James Franklin was noncommittal when asked if Cabinda could play with a club on his injured hand/ wrist.
Defensive tackle Kevin Givens is also questionable after leaving the Pitt game with a head injury and wide receiver Saeed Blacknall (hand/wrist) could also miss the game.
The Nittany Lions haven’t been nearly as bad up front as the previous two seasons but tackles Brendan Mahon and Andrew Nelson both struggled at times against Pitt passrusher Ejuan Price. Mahon was beaten cleanly on plays that turned into stripsacks and Franklin said junior college transfer Paris Palmer has been pushing him in practice.
Phillip Walker already leads the Owls in nearly every major passing category but he’s struggled with accuracy so far this season completing just 46.9 percent of his passes. Franklin doesn’t expect him to stay down for long.
So is DaeSean Hamilton for Penn State. Hamilton was distraught after dropping the potential go-ahead touchdown late against Pitt but his teammates sense he’s due for a breakout game. Hamilton has 10 catches out of the slot and has been an early go-to for Trace McSorley.
“He can flip the switch immediately and get back to what he has to do to better himself and eliminate those plays the next week,” receiver DeAndre Thompkins said.