High-scoring Nittany Lions too much for Georgia State
This one went exactly as pretty much everyone pictured. Penn State dominated. Overwhelmed Georgia State with its speed, with its athleticism, with its strength, with its toughness and, most of all, its depth. Its first eight touchdowns, after all, were scored by eight different players.
Running back Saquon Barkley made enough big plays early in the game to add to his impressive Heisman Trophy candidacy highlight reel. Quarterback Trace McSorley threw for a record 258 passing yards and accounted for four touchdowns — before halftime. Receiver DaeSean Hamilton scored his first touchdown since the 2016 season opener, and Saeed Blacknall had his first catch of the season, and defensive backs Marcus Allen and Tariq Castro-Fields had their first interceptions ever.
Penn State’s defense forced five turnovers and seemed well on its way to pitching its second shutout in three games this season.
And most important of all, the Nittany Lions scored more than 30 points for the 10th game in a row, something only four other Big Ten teams have ever accomplished. Which is pretty good for a team that allowed just one touchdown through the first 11 quarters of the 2017 season.
Honest coaches will tell you, a perfect football game by their standard is easy to define. It’s one that your team wins convincingly, let still leaves room for improvement.
Here’s guessing that Penn State’s 56-0 win Saturday will give head coach James Franklin reason to both celebrate and complain as the Nittany Lions head into Big Ten play next weekend.
“We have to get the running game going,” he told Penn State’s radio network as he strolled into the locker room at halftime.
His team was only up 35 at the time.
That’s the scary thing about the 2017 Nittany Lions. They’ve been so explosive offensively, yet they have looked rather out of sync at times. They’ve been so stingy on the scoreboard defensively, but there are times it looks like opposing offenses have Penn State’s defenders on their heels.
Reportedly, Georgia State head coach Shawn Elliott vented to his school’s radio network at halftime that the 35 points Penn State scored were, “probably the cheapest 35 points I’ve ever seen given.”
“Cheapest” is a bad word to choose there, considering his offense got outgained by Barkley, 185 yards to 153, in the first half. But it’s not a stretch to see where Elliott would be so upset that it got that out of hand that quickly.
Because Franklin was right, too. Penn State’s running game wasn’t very good in the first half at times.
Which means, the offensive line wasn’t as good as it could be, at times.
Which means, McSorley was under more pressure than he needed to be, at times.
Of course, “at times” is the operative phrase there. But the Panthers held Barkley to just 10 yards on his first seven carries before he ripped off a 33-yard run just before halftime. Don’t think Iowa and Northwestern and, you guessed it, Michigan and Ohio State won’t try to take some tips on how the Bulldogs were able to hold Barkley in check so long.
Maybe, they’ll find something they can use.
Maybe, they’ll discover what everybody else who has tried to cage in Barkley these last two years has discovered. That you can do it, for a while. But not forever.
Which is the story of this team, really. The players weave in and out of sync, on both sides of the ball. But when they find it, a team like Georgia State, as good a plan as it might have, has no shot to defend itself.
And so the Penn State offense rolls on, into the Big Ten schedule with 141 points scored in its first three games, and plenty to work on.
And so the Penn State defense chugs on, too, into the Big Ten having allowed only 14 points in that same time frame. And plenty of work to do.
That’s what should have been learned Saturday night at Beaver Stadium. Penn State is far from perfect, only scratching the surface of what it can be.
Penn State quarterback Trace McSorley (9) runs in for a touchdown against Georgia State during the first half of Saturday’s game in State College.
Penn State’s DaeSean Hamilton (5) avoids a hit after making a catch during Saturday’s game.