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High-scor­ing Nit­tany Li­ons too much for Georgia State

The Citizens' Voice - - SPORTS - DON­NIE COLLINS Com­men­tary

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.

ChriS Knight / aSSoCiated PreSS

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.

CHRIS KNIGHT / ASSOCIATED PRESS

Penn State’s DaeSean Hamil­ton (5) avoids a hit af­ter mak­ing a catch dur­ing Satur­day’s game.

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