Nittany Lions remain uneaten by walloping Indiana
By BILL ALBRIGHT
EasternPAFootball.com/WesternPAFootball.net Senior Writer
If you had thoughts of a possible letdown following an emitional win over Iowa on the road, forget it. Saquon Barkley, Trace McSorley and DaeSean Hamilton took matters in their own hands.
Although Barkley was the usual Barkley, in the end the day belonged to Hamilton as the senior wide receiver dazzled the Penn State faithful with a record-breaking effort as the Nittany Lions defeated Indiana, 45-14, in the Big Ten home opener for the Lions.
“I think you are always concerned, after coming off the road and things like that, in an emotional tough game against a tough opponent,“ said PSU head coach James Franklin. “But, I thought we handled it the right way this week. We limited reps for some guys, we did a lot when it comes to rejuvenation and things that we typically do. We talked about hydration, nutrition, talked about sleep and all of those things. We also modified practice a little bit. I thought we handled it the right way. I thought starting fast tonight really helped us.”
Hauling into the opening kickoff on his own 2-yard line, Barkley juked and jived a couple of Indiana defenders before outracing the final Hoosier defenders to take it to the house for a 98-yard kickoff return and the touchdown.
Following the Barkley electrifier, the Lion defense did its thing by recovering a Hoosier fumble. On the sixth play following the turnover, Trace McSorley sneaked in from one yard out and less than four minutes into the game, the Lions had bolted out to a 14-0 lead.
If you thought that things couldn’t get much worse for the Hoosiers, relax that thought. With the Lions unable to move the sticks on their next possession, they punted.
With excellent downfield coverage, Irvin Charles jarred the ball loose and Nick Scott, after scooping up the ball, sprinted 13 yards to the house. With the further explosion, the Lion lead had ballooned to 21-0 less than 10 minutes into the game, and they weren’t finished.
With 41 sconds left in the first period, McSorley found Hamilton with an 8-yard scoring strike and with the TD connection, the Lions took a 28-0 lead at the first turn and the rout was on. Or was it?
“I don’t know if I’ve seen a better half of special teams in my 23 years of doing this, said Franklin. “That has been something that we’ve worked really hard on and invested in since we’ve been here. We are really starting to get some really positive returns. Obviously, we need to get the field goal situation cleaned up, that is unacceptable and I’m not pleased with it at all. I don’t want this to come off the wrong way, we are going to enjoy winning around here, but there are still some things we have to be honest with ourselves about and get cleaned up.”
Indiana continued to hang around as they scored their only points of the game with a pair of touchdowns in the second period for a 28-14 PSU halftime lead.
Doing the honors for the Hoosiers were Ricky Brookins with a 2-yard run and Simmie Cobb, Jr with an 18-yard pass from Peyton Ramsey.
After seeing their lead cut in half by the Hoosiers at the break, it was show up or shut up time for the Lions and fortunately for the 107,542 fans in Beaver Stadium, they chose to show up by tossing a 17-0 shutout at the Hoosiers in the second half to set the final.
“Defensively, I thought the turnovers were huge,“ said Franklin. “We’ve been emphasizing that all offseason. Obviously, the ones we got tonight, I think most of them were off of tackles; either just jarring hits or strips. I’m pleased with the progress that we’re making there. We’re playing really good defense, scoring defense, which to me is the most important number that there is out there.”
After getting a turnover for a first-and-goal at the Hoosier 7-yard line, three plays didn’t result in any points and the Lions were completely shut out on the possession when Tyler Davis shanked his 21-yard field goal attempt to the right.
One possession later, Davis was able to redeem himself when he drilled a field goal following the Lions recovery of an Indiana fumble.
Following the three-pointer, the Lions extended their lead back to 24 points (38-14) when McSorley and Hamilton hooked up again, this time for 24 yards and the touchdown before Hamilton was on the receiving end of a TD pass from Barkley to set the game final.
It was a historic afternoon for Hamilton, who became Penn State’s career receptions leader. With nine receptions for 122 yards and a career-high three touchdowns, Hamilton now has 181 career receptions, breaking the record of 179 held by Deon Butler.
His final catch of the day went to review to give the outstanding wide receiver a few anxious moments.
“No, I really wasn’t out there keeping track or anything like that, I was just trying to make plays whenever the ball was coming my way,“ said Hamilton. “Then, they said it over the loud speaker and that’s what I realized what might be. I wasn’t worried about it, and by the way, over the course of the beginning of the season I didn’t know if I was going to break the record today, later on down the year, or anything like that. I wasn’t really worried about it.”
Following the game, Lion defensive back Marcus Allen had some good words as to what Hamilton brings to the Lion table.
“I would just say that was a really good moment right there. That’s a good athlete,” said Allen about his teammate. “Penn State football’s been around for a long long time, and for Hammy to reach that goal, that puts a smile on everyone’s face. So, inside the locker room, everyone’s just proud of Hammy, and just being there and supporting him.”
“I’m really proud,“ said Franklin about Hamilton. “I made a really big deal about it in the locker room with the guys. I think he is a great example for our younger players, I think he is a great example in general. He gets here as a true freshman, he has a pre-existing injury and sits out his entire freshman year. Next year, plays as a redshirt-freshman and has a huge year. One year he leads the Big Ten in catches, the next year his numbers go way down, he stays positive, he just keep working and grinding to get through it. He has had a great career, he has been a great leader, a great teammate and he’s a great student.”
For the game, Barkley surpassed 200 all-purpose yards for the fourth time this season and added a touchdown pass to Hamilton in the fourth quarter to become the first Big Ten player and sixth in FBS since 1996 to return a kickoff for a touchdown and throw a touchdown pass in the same game. He finished with 205 all-purpose yards with 98 yards coming on the return, 56 yards rushing on 20 carries and 51 yards receiving on four catches.
McSorley had his seventh 300-yard passing game of his career, completing 23-of-36 passes for 315 yards and two touchdowns, extending his games with a touchdown streak to 20 games. He also rushed for one touchdown.
Now 5-0 overall and 2-0 in the Big Ten, next up for the Lions is a visit to Evanston, Illinois to battle the Northwestern Wildcats.
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