Five Things We Learned: Rutgers
The Penn State Nittany Lions shutout the Rutgers Scarlett Knights on Saturday by a final score of 39-0. Penn State recorded their first Big Ten road shutout since the 2006 season when they defeated the Purdue Boilermakers, 12-0. Penn State started out slow entering the locker rooms at halftime with a 9-0 lead. Redshirt freshman wide receiver Juwan Johnson provided a much-needed spark for Blue and White when he blocked a Rutgers punt early in the third quarter. The fantastic special teams play led to a 1-yard rushing touchdown from sophomore running back Saquon Barkley. Later in the game, Barkley suffered an injury to the head and was held out for the remainder of the contest. Freshman Miles Sanders, Andre Robinson and Mark Allen picked up the slack and combined for 158 total yards on offense. Penn State improved to (9-2, 7-1 B1G) keeping their Big Ten Title hopes in reach, while the Scarlett Knights fell to (2-9, 0-8 B1G), and sit in last place in the Big Ten East.
Here are five things we learned from the Penn State-Rutgers game:
1. No matter what Rutgers fans think, the Scarlett Knights are not rivals with Penn State.
Nittany Lion fans nationwide know that Penn State and Rutgers are not rivals. For the past two years, Penn State has laid the hammer on the New Jersey football team and took it right to them again on Saturday. The defense was phenomenal, holding the Rutgers offense to zero points. Penn State accumulated 549 total yards to the Scarlett Knights 87 yards to put the beat down into perspective. Rutgers has a lot to do as a program and should follow Penn State’s example of how to build from the ground up and become a top-ten caliber team.
2. Penn State’s Big Ten Title hopes are still alive.
As of right now, Michigan holds the tiebreaker in the Big Ten East over Penn State after defeating Indiana at home by a final of 20-10. The Wolverines seemed vulnerable with their rough start against the Hoosiers. Indiana has given Ohio State, Penn State and Michigan fits early in each game, but have fallen short, losing to the Big Ten’s best. Penn State hosts Michigan State, while Michigan travels to the Horseshoe to take on Ohio State in each team’s respective final game. It is very possible that Ohio State takes down Michigan and Penn State beats the Spartans to ride its momentum into the Big Ten Championship game. Penn State has won seven in a row and is expected to win an eighth. The Blue and White need some help, though. If there was ever a time to root for the Ohio State Buckeyes as a Penn State fan, it would be Saturday, Nov. 26.
3. Tight end Mike Gesicki is emerging as quarterback Trace McSorley’s favorite target.
In back-to-back weeks, junior tight end Mike Gesicki has led Penn State in receiving. Gesicki finished the outing against Rutgers with five receptions and 47 yards. He caught five passes for 88 yards against Indiana, too. Gesicki is becoming the player that many thought he would be. For a tight end, he is elusive in the open field and has improved as a pass catcher since the beginning of the season. Gesicki continues to add more dimensions to Franklin’s deadly offense.
4. Penn State cannot overcome its nasty habit of slow starts.
Once again, head coach James Franklin and his squad succumbed to the slow start that plagued the team early in the season against the likes of the Pittsburgh Panthers and Michigan. They are fortunate that teams like Kent State, Temple and Rutgers could not capitalize. Regardless of what is scheduled for the postseason, Penn State is going to play an extremely talented team in a bowl game. A top-25 team will take advantage of the Nittany Lions if they do not get off to a fast start. Penn State finishes strong, but it needs to address its issue now before its bowl game approaches.
5. The Nittany Lions are in good hands if Saquon Barkley misses time with injury.
In the third quarter, Penn State players, coaches and fans held their breath when sophomore running back Saquon Barkley suffered a head injury against Rutgers. He was held out for the remainder of the game. While some people may feel concerned, the Nittany Lions are set for their final regular season game against Michigan State. Freshman running back Miles Sanders rushed for 85 yards on five carries, the longest of which came on a beautiful 57-yard play. If Franklin feels comfortable enough to let the freshman take the reigns at running back, Sanders can provide a similar spark that Barkley gives to the offense. If Franklin chooses to lead with veteran backs Andre Robinson and Mark Allen, their experience and awareness can carry the offense as well.
Zach Seyko is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism and minoring in communication arts & sciences. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.