By Thomas Frank Carr
It was a good win for the Nittany Lions on Saturday. That was a team they were on even footing with and they did just enough to win. That is what is expected of them and they delivered. Too many times we get caught up in the pre-game predictions that we forget to give credit where it’s due.
Here are things that stuck out to me after a second watching of Penn State vs Minnesota.
Barkley Does Dance:
There are many times when you feel for Saquon Barkley. Most of the time it’s when a 300 pound plus man is trying to smother him the second he gets the ball. Barkley has been put in many tough spots during his short Penn State career. While that cannot be denied, the sophomore tailback should also take his share of the blame. Barkley himself admits that he tries to do too much at times instead of taking the yards in front of him.
“I still do it sometimes, it’s a part of my nature… just take what the defense gives you. If it’s two, just stick your head in there and get two.”
A perfect example of this was the failed fourth down conversion in the first half where Barkley came up a yard short after being tackled by Minnesota safety Duke McGhee. Barkley received a clean handoff, the line opened up a hole for him and McGhee was waiting for him at the down marker. If Barkley had run with a head of steam and met McGhee, his momentum may have carried him past the down marker, but instead Barkley chopped his feet in the hole and tried to maneuver around the Gopher’s safety.
The result? A redshirt junior safety didn’t bite and delivered the hit instead of receiving it. Barkley was stonewalled and the Nittany Lions had to give the ball up without point. We should stop right now to point out that McGhee is no slouch. His play was as impressive in run support on Saturday. That being said, Barkley is an amazing talent, but it seems that he forgets that he’s 5’11, 223 pounds. He does not run with power or try to initiate contact. It feels wrong to say it, but Saquon Barkley isn’t perfect.
Fine with 4th and Short:
The Nittany Lions ran the ball three straight times from the eight yard line and nearly got the touchdown, with Trace McSorley coming up just short at the half foot line. The Gophers were playing downhill and expecting run. They filled aggressively and made it tough sledding on the Penn State. Aside from coming a yard short, I have no problem with the play calling or the execution of that exchange. Sometimes they just don’t go your way. Hopefully next time McSorley will be able to stretch the ball across the goal line.
Linebackers Look Young:
You have to hand it to the Nittany Lions. They’re playing with a bunch of players that clearly aren’t ready to see the field. Both Cam Brown and Jake Cooper struggled at times during the game vs Minnesota. Both are young and still learning the nuances of the position. The defensive line actually played very well for the first half and to start the third. (Give credit to Marcus Allen as well who played out of his mind) The linebackers had a rough time throughout the game being sucked in on play action fakes, misreads, and missed tackles. Cooper and Brown were in particular the victim of this. They’ll get better and they’re talented, but right now they’re an easy target for offenses.
Trace McSorley had the big plays and Marcus Allen had the stats on defense but Manny Bowen had a heck of a game. If it weren’t for Marcus Allen’s 22 tackles, Bowen would have been the player of the game for the defense. He hit Mitch Leidner three times and forced two very bad passes, one that was on third down to stop a scoring drive. Bowen then switched positions in the final mintues of the game after BOTH Brandon Smith and Jake Cooper went down with injuries and played MIKE linebacker. Bowen said later that he felt comfortable at the new position.
“I feel like it made me to play off instincts, being inside the box, even if there was something I wasn’t used to. Just playing off instincts, being in the center of everything.
He looked like it too. All Bowen did was secure two tackles for loss or no gain and stop Minnesota for a field goal, with help of course. He also had never called a play before, even in practice.