Barkley helps No. 5 Penn State rout Georgia State
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — It remains to be seen whether Saquon Barkley can do enough to impress Heisman Trophy voters.
Certainly, though, he continues to impress NFL scouts.
Penn State’s junior running back, a Heisman hopeful and likely early draft pick, again displayed his all-around skills Saturday night, generating 226 all-purpose yards in the No. 5 Nittany Lions’ 56-0 victory over Georgia State.
“He’s a special guy in a lot of ways,” Penn State coach James Franklin said. “I stopped being surprised or amazed a while ago.”
The highlight of Barkley’s day was an 85-yard touchdown reception in the first quarter. He had 142 yards on four receptions, 47 yards on 10 rushes and a 37-yard kickoff return before departing midway through the third quarter.
On his long touchdown play, Barkley took a short pass from quarterback Trace McSorley, juked a defender and outraced the Georgia State defense.
“You throw a 2-yard pass and he takes it 85,” McSorley said. “As a quarterback, you love having a player like that.”
Barkley, listed at 5-11 and 230 pounds, is one of the strongest players on the team. He is also one of the fastest, having been clocked at 4.33 seconds in the 40-yard dash.
“I feel faster (than in years past),” he said, “but I still feel like there’s room to improve. I feel like I can find a way to get another gear.”
McSorley threw four touchdown passes, and the Nittany Lions (3-0) built a 35-0 halftime lead in their final nonconference contest. They open Big Ten play next Saturday night at Iowa.
McSorley, who also played 2 1/2 quarters, completed 18 of 23 passes for 309 yards, the sixth 300-yard passing game of his career. Beside the 85-yarder to Barkley, his touchdown throws covered 10 yards to backup quarterback Tommy Stevens, 27 yards to DaeSean Hamilton and 15 to Brandon Polk.
Stevens also fired a 35-yard scoring pass to Saeed Blacknall, and reserve running backs Miles Sanders and Andre Robinson ran 29 and 41 yards for touchdowns, respectively.
Georgia State (0-2) was outgained 526-320 and committed five turnovers. The Panthers had a chance to avert a shutout with six seconds left, but Brandon Wright missed a 31-yard field-goal attempt.
“It was a tough day,” Georgia State coach Shawn Elliott said. “They’re a pretty good football team. We gave up a lot of cheap points. That’s probably the most disappointing thing — a lot of cheap, cheap points.”
The Lions marched 63 yards in nine plays after receiving the opening kickoff, with McSorley completing all six of his passes, the last a 10-yarder to Stevens for the touchdown.
Two possessions later, Penn State was facing third-and-12 from its own 15 when McSorley rolled right and threw back across his body to Barkley, who caught the ball in the left flat before turning on the afterburners.
It was the longest play of Barkley’s career, and the longest pass play in a home game in school history. It was the third-longest touchdown catch in program history — as well as the longest since 1971. Barkley also became the first Penn State player with a run and a reception covering more than 80 yards in his career.
Barkley added a 44-yard catch to start the Lions’ first possession of the second quarter and two plays later, McSorley hit Hamilton for a 27-yard score.
Interceptions by Penn State’s Grant Haley and Marcus Allen led to two more first-half touchdowns by the Lions, the first on a 29-yard run by Sanders, the second on McSorley’s 8-yard keeper.
That left the Lions with a 35-0 halftime lead.
By that point, Barkley had 43 yards on eight rushing attempts and 142 on four catches. McSorley was 14 of 19 for 258 yards — a school record for a half — and three scores.
McSorley threw his 15-yard touchdown pass to Polk, who was also his teammate at Briar Woods High School in Virginia, with 7:56 left in the third quarter.
Shortly after freshman cornerback Tariq Castro-Fields registered his first career interception, Stevens found Blacknall for the 35-yard score with 6:01 remaining in the period.
Robinson’s 41-yard touchdown run came with 8:55 remaining.
NOTES: Will Fries made his first career start at left guard for the Nittany Lions and Steven Gonzalez, who started the first two games at that position, moved to right guard in place of Brendan Mahon, who did not play. Penn State coach James Franklin, who does not discuss injuries, said Mahon is expected to play against Iowa. ... Penn State DE Torrence Brown was carted off after suffering an apparent injury to his right knee on a low block by Georgia State RB Kyler Neal in the first quarter. ... The only passing plays longer in school history than Saquon Barkley’s 85-yarder were an 86-yarder from Steve Joachim to Jim Scott against Navy in 1971, and a 92-yarder from Bill Hess to Bob Higgins against Pitt in 1919. ... Marcus Allen’s second-quarter interception was the first of his career, while Grant Haley registered his second of the season, and the fifth of his career. ... Penn State K Tyler Davis missed a 39-yard field goal with 10 seconds left in the first half, his second miss in four attempts this season. He missed only two of first 32 career attempts, both of them blocks. ... It was the schools’ first meeting.