Five Things We Learned: Minnesota
Penn State’s 29-26 overtime win over the Minnesota Golden Gophers on Saturday was a well fought affair for both teams. Minnesota looked like they had the advantage at the end of the first half, up by ten, but Penn State came back swinging in the third quarter, scoring 17 unanswered before having it tied up again almost immediately. Tyler Davis knocked the ball through the uprights in the dying seconds of the game to bring it to overtime. On Penn State’s first play in overtime Saquon Barkley ran it up the middle for a touchdown to end the game. It was certainly not a pretty game by either side, but the Lions held out longer, making big plays when they had to on both offense and defense to take the W. Here are five things to take away from the Nittany Lions’ win:
1. Trace McSorley is a man of many talents.
The Nittany Lions’ quarterback may have only started five games in his short career so far, but he has already made himself comfortable. We have seen his ability to throw the ball shown off many times already this year, but we hadn’t seen him run very often. On Saturday McSorley kept the Lions in the game almost single handedly with eight rushes for 73 yards and a touchdown. His most important run came in the last minute of regular time, scrambling 26 yards before going out of bounds and getting into field goal range for Tyler Davis.
McSorley did play well in the traditional sense too, throwing for 336 yards and a touchdown in the game. He would have had many more yards if many of his deep throws had found their targets. McSorley did look very calm in the pocket, he did not take a single sack in the game, though was hurried a fair number of times. It will certainly be interesting to see him improve further as he gets more playing time.
2. Penn State is terrible on third down.
Penn State started the game going 0-10 on third down, ending the game with an abysmal 4-14 on third and 1-2 on fourth down. The men in Blue and White have had a huge weak spot here in every game so far this year. Penn State lost many touchdown opportunities thanks to this weakness, their first three points would have easily been seven if they could have pushed the ball three yards on third down. The Lions managed to keep their drives going when the game was on the line but it would be so much less stressful, and the team would win more games if they could improve on third down.
3. The running game was almost non-existent.
Though Saquon Barkley finished the game on a 25 yard touchdown in overtime to win it he had a pretty poor game up until that point. Barkley finished the game with only 63 yards on 20 carries. Penn State and their fans have come to expect a lot more from their run game. A lot of the responsibility lands on the shoulders of Penn State’s offensive line who couldn’t make holes down the middle consistently and couldn’t get to blocks on runs to the outside. Barkley has proved over and over again that he is one of the most dangerous running backs in the NCAA when he is in the open field, including the game winning run on Saturday, but that doesn’t help when he can’t get into the open field to begin with. If the line can’t improve Penn State won’t stand much of a chance against better teams.
4. It is very useful to have a good kicker.
Tyler Davis is now 17-for-17 in field goal attempts on the year, continuing his perfect kicking career at Penn State. Now in his second season kicking for the Nittany Lions Davis broke the field goals made in a row record at Penn State in the game on Saturday previously held by Sam Ficken.
With Davis on fire, Coach Franklin knows that when the offense is inside the 50 yard line they can almost always count on coming out of the drive with three more points on the board. At the beginning of the game the Lions were on the Minnesota one yard line and went for the guaranteed field goal instead of risking coming away with nothing. It turned out to be the right decision as it gave them the chance to send the game to overtime by driving down the field and setting Davis up for a 40-yard try that he drilled. Penn State fans should know by now not to worry too much when he steps on to the field.
5. Penn State’s defense seems to be cursed.
All season Penn State has had trouble keeping their defense together with players have been dropping left and right. Penn State’s middle linebacker position has taken the brunt of the abuse and Coach Franklin, along with Defensive Coordinator Brent Pry, have had to find sixth string linebackers to play. Not only have injuries taken their toll, but Penn State received its second targeting call in two weeks, ending in the players being taken out of the games. The Nittany Lions are really hoping that their defense can hold on until their players heal up, while not losing any more starters.
Tommy Butler is a sophomore majoring in Broadcast Journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.