Penn State Aired Out Northwestern

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Penn State Aired Out Northwestern
October 7, 2017. Penn State running back Saquon Barkley runs for one of his two touchdowns against Northwestern Saturday in Evanston, IL. (Photo courtesy Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Penn State Aired Out Northwestern

Third ranked Penn State aired out Northwestern to stay undefeated and move to 6-0 on the season. It was not pretty and the offense needs to improve, but the Nittany Lions are going into the bye week sitting atop the Big Ten East. The highlight of the game on Saturday was again the Nittany Lion defense. The defense has held opponents scoreless in the first quarter throughout the first half of the season.

Offense Takeaways

The offense did not look quite right again on Saturday. Trace McSorley spent much of the game under duress and Saquon Barkley barely touched the ball. Even still, there were moments of explosiveness from an offense that has many weapons to choose from. McSorley threw for 245 yards and one touchdown, while rushing for another touchdown to seal the game. Although, if you watched the game you could see that he spent much of it under pressure. The Northwestern defense had five sacks and 12 tackles for loss. The lack of offensive line production made it difficult for Barkley to get started on Saturday. Although the outstanding junior running back was held under 100 all-purpose yards, he still had two touchdowns. He also showed his elusiveness on a 53-yard touchdown run in the third quarter.

Northwestern had much of its attention on Barkley, allowing McSorley to utilize nine different receivers. Furthermore, McSorley passed Kerry Collins for the Penn State consecutive completions record with 15-straight completions against the Wildcats. Notably, back-up quarterback Tommy Stevens gained his second touchdown reception of the season. This week’s game showed that the Nittany Lions can be productive and win games when Barkley does not have over 100 all-purpose yards.

Defense Takeaways

The Nittany Lion defense again showed the nation why they are the third best in the nation as Penn State aired out Northwestern. The defense forced three Wildcat turnovers and had four sacks on Saturday. Cornerback Christian Campbell recorded his first interception of the season, while Amani Oruwariye recorded his third. Campbell has been very reliable throughout the first half of the season and had a 16.1 passer rating when targeted against Northwestern on Saturday. He only allowed three receptions on seven attempts for a total of 30 yards. Campbell has had atleast one pass breakup in the last seven games, dating back to last season. The whole unit held Northwestern scoreless until the final drive of the game.

The cornerbacks were especially productive. Grant Haley had a career-high three pass breakups Saturday. In addition, the Penn State defense as a whole had 10 pass breakups against Northwestern. Finally, the Nittany Lions forced three turnovers in consecutive games this season. They have not done this since 2015 against San Diego State and Army. The bye week is a perfect time for the defense to get much needed rest in anticipation for the toughest stretch of their schedule.

Looking Ahead

The Nittany Lions head into the bye week undefeated. The group that will benefit the most of the bye week is the offensive line. A week off to get healthy and have some communication is just what the Penn State needs before entering a difficult Big Ten East line-up.

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