This is the Deion Barnes we expected last season. The disruptive force off the edge who uses his speed and quick hands to get around the edge and force the quarterback into the defensive tackles bearing down on him. The big body that causes distractions for the quarterback even when he's not making a play. The reliable force that will force teams to pay attention to him, and free up someone else on the line. Barnes was expected to be the key to the defensive line last season, and while that never quite happened in 2013, it seems like it may be happening now.
Barnes spent nearly the entire night in the Rutgers backfield, forcing Nova into quick passes, overthrows, and poor decisions. When he wasn't getting his hands on him from his outside rushing spot, he was forcing him inside where Anthony Zettel and Austin Johnson were waiting to clean the play up. He helped with the efforts to corral Paul James and Desmon Peoples. He played like the future NFL draft pick that many of us believe he can be. He may not ever reach those incredibly lofty expectations we as fans set for him, but if he can do what he did on Saturday night consistently, he'll hear his name called on the second day of the NFL draft, and Penn State's defense will continue to wreck havoc on its opponents.
So here's to you Deion Barnes. Here's to you, and here's to fulfilling expectations. In honor of my recent binge viewing of Game of Thrones, Black Shoe Diaries shall send you 50 golden dragons as your reward for winning this prestigious honor.
Anthony Zettel: I was extremely close to giving this week's MVP to Zettel, and he and Barnes were neck and neck in the race for "Most Disruptive". Kyle Flood would surely agree with me, as he stated multiple times in his press conference (in which he looked like he just ran over his own puppy) that they couldn't stop number 98.
Christian Hackenberg: With what he had to work with tonight, Hack did everything he could. His offensive line left him out to dry for nearly the entire game, and he still was able to find a way to lead the game winning drive. From eluding tacklers and finding some space to run for a few yards instead of being sacked, to having the balance to throw the ball away with a defender wrapped around his legs, Hackenberg showed his pocket presence tonight. Sure, Geno Lewis did most of the work on the game changing pass, thanks to the Rutgers secondary tackling each other off of him, but without Hack in there, who knows if the pass is even completed. So as opposed to the first two games, where Hack's numbers probably outpaced his true performance, he played better than his numbers on Saturday.
Bob Shoop and the entire defense: You really can't say enough about the defense from Saturday's game. From the well-timed blitzing, to the five interceptions, to the completely locked down second half, the defense came to play, and was what won the game for Penn State. The defensive line cause chaos. The linebackers were doing stuffing the run and dropping back in coverage effectively. The secondary members were the beneficiaries of Nova's silly mistakes. Shoop couldn't have prepared his boys better to stop Gary Nova, Paul James and co. Hats off to them.