Five Things We Learned: Rutgers
No. 14 Penn State dispatched of Rutgers on Saturday with a 35-6 win over the Scarlet Knights on Homecoming weekend. A cold day at Beaver Stadium led to a slow start for Penn State, but the Nittany Lions dropped 35 unanswered points to advance to 8-2 on the season, and 5-2 in Big Ten play. Here are five things we learned from the win:
1. Perhaps Joe Moorhead leaving for another school wouldn’t be the worst thing
As much as Joe Moorhead has revolutionized Penn State’s offense, it seems like most of college football has figured out how to stop him. The run-pass option (RPO) offense can only take Penn State so far, as opposing defenses have figured it out. The insistence on exclusively operating out of the RPO has turned Penn State from innovative to one-dimensional. Not being able to change up the playbook has cost Penn State at times. Moorhead’s services have been rumored to be sought after by a number of suitors, and his departure could signal Penn State’s transition into an offense that could be multidimensional.
2. Saquon Barkley’s talent is arguably being wasted behind a porous offensive line
Everyone can agree that the offensive and defensive lines have been the biggest areas of weakness for Penn State since the sanctions. But to have such horrendous offensive line play while wasting the unique talent that is Saquon Barkley is sad to see. Barkley was limited to an atrocious 35 yards on 14 carries. When he actually had room to run, he was able to do Barkley-like things, with yet another hurdle over a defender. He will be a great running back in the NFL, but it makes it tough to watch him struggle through no fault of his own.
3. Penn State’s defense looked like themselves again even against inferior talent
After allowing 39 and 27 points respectively, the defense did not allow a touchdown on Saturday. They held Rutgers to a field goal on their first drive even though they recovered the opening kickoff inside the Penn State 25-yard line. Following a Andrew Harte field goal with 11:16 left in the second quarter, the PSU defense did not allow Rutgers to cross midfield until their final drive of the game. People talk about how impactful the loss of Barkley is next year, but the loss of Jason Cabinda (11 tackles, one for loss) will be felt by this unit next year.
4. Neither team felt like playing special teams
Both teams ended up with the first possession of each half respectively, but not exactly how either side planned. In a bizarre play, Rutgers recovered the opening kickoff as no one for Penn State recovered the live ball. It nearly cost Penn State early, but luckily the defense was there to only yield a field goal. To start the second half, Janarion Grant fumbled the opening kickoff, and Garrett Taylor recovered for the Nittany Lions, setting up Penn State in great field position. Both were uncharacteristic plays by two of the best athletes on the field, in Barkley and Grant respectively.
5. Penn State still has a decent chance at a New Year’s Six bowl
With four teams (Georgia, Notre Dame, TCU, Washington) in the top ten losing on Saturday, Penn State will move up in the rankings. Considering there will be more chaos to ensue as well, it isn’t unrealistic to say the Nittany Lions could end up in a New Year’s Six bowl if Penn State wins out. With very winnable games against Nebraska and Maryland coming up, and some big rivalry games the Saturday after Thanksgiving, hopefully chaos ensues and the outcomes could favor the Nittany Lions.
Zach Kaplan is a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email email@example.com.