By: Thomas Frank Carr
It was a night of firsts for the Penn State Nittany Lions in their 56 to nothing win over Georgia State on Saturday in the two programs first meeting on the field.
Redshirt Freshman Will Fries got his first start in his collegiate career.
Billy Fessler completed his first collegiate pass.
Saeed Blacknall recorded his first catch and touchdown of the season.
Tommy Stevens threw his first touchdown pass of his career.
Likely none of the firsts tonight were sweeter for the team than Marcus Allen’s first interception of his career.
“ I’m just happy. I”m ecstatic. I’m really speaking it into existence. I talked to my father like two days before the game. I said, ‘Dad I swear, I’m going to get an interception before I leave Penn State’ and it came. I feels like my birthday,” an exuberant Allen said after the game.
He wasn’t the only one. After his pick and return the whole team mobbed him on the field. Starting tailback Saquon Barkley was just as giddy as Allen, if that is possible,
“That was special. He kept saying he was going to get one. He was out there looking like he was a high school running,making cuts. I was screaming like a little girl on the sideline.”
But as always the story of the game was Barkley and his incredible versatility. With very little room to run on the ground, Barkley took to the air to the tune of 142 yards and a touchdown on four catches including an incredible 85 yard catch and run that ended in his only TD of the game. All told, Barkley had 226 combined yards on the night.
“Saquon just as so many tools, you talk about a 235 pound guy that can make you miss, run you over and then can burst up the sideline. Two years ago he said he wanted to get faster and he worked on that, to finish runs off. I can’t imagine there’s a more explosive player in space than him,” said head coach James Franklin.
The Nittany Lions struggled to run the ball in the first half, being held to 11 yards on the ground through the first half. Things did open up later in the game when Miles Sanders scampered into the endzone for a 29 yard touchdown run. Franklin said that it was an area on offense he would like to really see improvement on,
“I think we’ve got to consistently be able to run the ball a little bit better. We’ve got to sustain blocks longer….Not having (Brendan) Mahon in there I think affected us a little bit in the run game.”
The other half of the BarkSorley backfield had a career night as well against the Panthers. Trace McSorley finished the day with 309 yards passing with four touchdowns and a 78% completion percentage. He also added a touchdown and 23 yards rushing on the ground. It was a bounce back performance for McSorley who had an uneven game vs Pitt the week before. Something he acknowledged after the game.
“It was something that was in my mind last week. It felt like last week personally as a player I didn’t put our team in the best position to through my play to win the game. I felt that I didn’t do what I needed to do to win. This week in practice it was getting back to settling my feet down, finishing my throws and being accurate with ball placement.”
It wasn’t all good for Penn State, however. Starting defensive end Torrence Brown left the game on a cart in the first quarter with what looked like a serious knee injury. While we won’t likely know the extent of the injury unless it’s season ending, it’s a blow for the Nittany Lions who lose their best run-stuffing defensive end.
“As you guys know we don’t ever talk about those things but I know he just broke the team down in the locker room and he was out the second half (in street clothes) so obviously we are hopeful that he will be available next week.”
The Nittany Lions had several players not in action on Saturday. Starting right guard Brendan Mahon suited up, but didn’t play. Corner Amani Oruwariye did not play either after limping off the field vs Pitt last week and sophomore linebacker Cam Brown did not play.
The Nittany Lions take to the road for the first time in the 2017 season when they travel to Iowa City to play the Hawkeyes in prime time.