Barkley ready to lead Penn State against Tem­ple

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - SPORTS - By Travis John­son

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.”

Paterno com­mem­o­ra­tion

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.

Banged-up de­fense

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.

Line ro­ta­tions

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.

Bounc­ing back

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.

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