Game Day Observations: Rutgers
On the field at Beaver Stadium on Saturday, Penn State football took out Big Ten Powerhouse Rutgers 28-3 in front of 103,000 people. I had the immense pleasure of watching the beatdown from the press box. Here’s what stood out.
- The Stripe Out should become Penn State’s newest tradition. I didn’t have the highest expectations for Penn State’s first attempt at a Stripe Out, especially on such a large scale. Maybe 75 percent of the crowd would know what color to wear, and even then, they’d opt not to with the impending inclement weather. To my pleasant surprise, the promotion was completely damn perfect. I carefully scanned the half of the stadium that I could see for blue shirts in white sections or vice versa, and found nothing out of place. Save for the Rutgers fans in the north end zone, everyone knew what color they were supposed to wear and executed it right. There’s only so much I can say, but check out how nicely it turned out:
- Saquon Barkley is a legitimate star. Barkley is second in the nation in yards per carry, and that hasn’t come in a small sample size. He’s had more than a fair share of carries in the last two games, despite his status as an alleged backup running back. He has three touchdowns in that span too, and he’s 32nd in the FBS with 311 rushing yards. If you’ve watched these games (or even if you just watched the highlights after), you know who this guy is. He’s Penn State’s next great running back — he isn’t making great plays based on luck, he’s making guys miss and bowling them over. The upcoming slate of games against San Diego State, Army, and Indiana shouldn’t show much better defenses than the first three games. Stay tuned to see what the freshman phenom does next.
- But he couldn’t do it without *gulp* great play by the offensive line. You can take a look at the offensive line’s stats and say, hey, it hasn’t allowed a sack in two games. That great factoid doesn’t even tell the full story. The offensive line doesn’t specifically show up on the stat sheet, but when the offense rushes for 330 yards, a lot of the credit has to be given to them. Also, this looks like a photoshop:
— Onward State (@OnwardState) September 20, 2015
- The defense finally looked like its 2014 self. Temple scored 27 points and Buffalo is… Buffalo. Rutgers is another Big Ten team, and even though they were understaffed (no star receiver Leonte Carroo, no head coach, and its quarterback was making his second career start), any college football team should really be able to muster more than a field goal against any other. Bob Shoop’s defense ranked among the best in the nation last year, and despite a litany of injuries, brought that intensity in the Big Ten opener. Rutgers’ offense played pretty poorly, but even more credit has to go to the defense, especially the line.
- Hackenberg, statistically, is so bad. Of course, not everything that came from that game was good. Five-star recruit, former record-breaking freshman, and projected top NFL Draft pick Christian Hackenberg couldn’t put up good numbers against Temple, Buffalo, or Rutgers! After pouring over way too many statistics during and after the game, the most shocking is his production. All four touchdowns came on the ground for the Nittany Lions, and Hackenberg completed ten out of 19 passes for 141 yards, no touchdowns, and an interception on the goal line. What is it that NFL scouts see that most fans don’t? Projected talent? Because if he can’t have a decent game against any of those three teams, what’s he going to do against professional football players?
- This was the most complete game we’ve seen in a while, including special teams. Forget the passing offense — the Nittany Lions’ attack as a whole was dominant, its defense was stifling, but somehow its special teams play was even better. James Franklin gave the game ball to punter Chris Gulla, who made his first start and absolutely shown that he deserved it. Rutgers was almost always pinned deep in its own territory, and Gulla was one of the key contributors in the Knights’ scoring of only three points.
- Penn State has so many talented receivers, why do we only ever see two? Before checking out the postgame stats, I half-jokingly thought to myself, “How were Hamilton, Godwin, and Gesicki the only players who caught passes?” Turns out, that observation was right. Three players caught passes for Penn State. Rutgers cornerback Anthony Cioffi caught more passes than Kyle Carter, Geno Lewis, Saeed Blacknall, DeAndre Thompkins, Brandon Polk, Akeel Lynch, and Saquon Barkley combined. Whether that was an issue of weird play-calling or bad throws from Hackenberg, this should be one of the deepest, most talented receiving corps around. Pretty crazy they aren’t getting their chance to shine.
- This felt like the first football Saturday, and it was great. The home opener against Buffalo sure didn’t seem that way, as a rainy day saw a mere 93,000 fans at Beaver Stadium. This game felt more like the first game at Beaver Stadium, as an under-the-lights matchup and a Big Ten opener (not to mention the Stripe Out) made the atmosphere substantially better. One of the best feelings is a rocking press box — literally, since with enough noise, the ground and walls begin to shake. I didn’t feel that last week, but I did on Saturday. It’s great to be back.
And finally, the most important highlight to come from Saturday:
— Onward State (@OnwardState) September 20, 2015