McSorley, Barkley Lead Huge Offensive Output Against Maryland
Saquon Barkley and Trace McSorley have been the face of Penn State’s program for a while now, but we saw the best of both young stars in a huge 38-14 Homecoming win over Maryland.
Barkley set a new career-high with 202 rushing yards on 31 carries (6.5 average), including a breakaway 45-yard touchdown (his Big Ten-leading ninth this season) to give the Nittany Lions a 24-14 lead seconds before the intermission. Penn State’s defense did the rest of the work in a second-half shutout that hit the spot for the 100,000 Beaver Stadium faithful that endured a second straight rain-saturated Saturday.
McSorley wasn’t asked to throw the ball around much given the slippery conditions, but the redshirt sophomore completed 10-of-19 for 152 yards and two touchdowns, while adding a career-best 81 yards and another score on the ground. McSorley’s 18 carries were also a personal high, demonstrating offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead’s comfort in his 6-foot signal caller’s ability to make the right reads and take off.
“The mobility at the quarterback position is going to be important for us moving forward. I thought it was a major factor in the game,” James Franklin said in his postgame press conference. “I do think it helped Saquon…and it continues to help our offensive line out in protection with some of the play-action [reads] were doing as well.”
McSorley looked ultra confident from the start against the Terrapins, leading Penn State on a quick seven-play, 84-yard scoring drive that culminated in a five-yard toss to tight end Mike Gesicki to go up 7-0.
“It was huge for us, getting that first touchdown,” McSorley said. “It was able to get the energy going on our sideline, get the fans into it, and get Beaver Stadium rocking.”
The Ashburn, Va., native is happy with his team’s progress on the offensive side of the ball through the first half of the season, but still thinks there’s plenty of room to improve, and many more points to score.
“We’ve done pretty well on offense to this point, at least averaging almost 30-plus a game I think, but we still feel like we’re leaving points on the board,” McSorley said. “We’re just still scraping the surface. I mean, we’re six games into a brand new offense. Definitely enough time for us to be comfortable and know what we’re doing, but there’s still some things we need to clean up so we can take that next step.”
He touched on the added importance of stepping up against the closest college program to his hometown.
“Guys from the DMV definitely had a little extra motivation. I know, personally, I grew up 45 minutes from the University of Maryland, so that was the closest college to me, even with UVA and Tech in my home state.”
Barkley finally had some running lanes to work with against the Terrapins. The split-second difference between having a defensive lineman in his face from the get-go and having a few yards of daylight was more than enough to spur an enormous output for the Coplay, Pa., product.
“The o-line did a great job getting hats on hats and getting me and Trace one-on-one with the safeties,” Barkley said. “They played with passion, they played tough and physical. Coach Franklin always says before the game, and every week, he preaches that games are won up front and the o-line really took hold of that and came out with a different attitude. I didn’t do anything spectacular, I didn’t make any crazy plays, I was just patient and let the o-line go to work.”
If Barkley considers adding another hurdle to his highlight reel unspectacular, then we’ll be the first ones to express our excitement for what’s to come following the bye week against Ohio State. After all, the true freshman version of Barkley put up 194 yards on the Buckeyes in Columbus. He spoke about the importance of starting fast and how the offense felt like it left a few plays out there.
“We finally got off to a great start. In past games, on the offensive side of the ball, we had been putting 30 points on the board, [but] hadn’t been coming out on fire, hadn’t been coming out fast. We still [had] two touchdowns called back, we missed a couple plays here and there, so we’re not where we wanna be, but we’re slowly progressing and slowly getting better each week.”
Still, 524 yards of total offense, including a ridiculous 372 on the ground, is an extremely encouraging sign for a team that struggled to put those types of numbers up in two games last season.
Barkley and the Nittany Lions will have a chance to rest up during the bye and hopefully get home to see their families. In fact, the sophomore tailback said his sister is expecting a baby this coming week. The proud uncle-to-be is bound to create plenty of breathtaking moments of his own during the second half of the season.