BSD MVP: Running Back Saquon Barkley
For the second week in a row and the fourth time this season, Barkley has earned top blog honors. Pretty much everyone on offense did a great job during Penn State’s 41-14 rout of Iowa on Saturday night, but the sophomore tailback was especially brilliant, picking up 8.4 yards per carry and scoring on two explosive plays. The first touchdown came on a 57-yard run early in the second quarter. The next was a 44-yard reception that put the game out of reach early in the fourth.
Barkley finished with 167 yards on 20 carries in addition to the one long catch. After a quiet start to the Big Ten season that included just 59 rushing yards against Michigan and 63 against Minnesota (albeit including the game-winning scamper), he has now rushed for at least 99 yards in four straight games. In three of those games, he’s gone over 160 yards.
Those types of figures were enough to attract national attention this weekend, and there’s no reason to believe that there aren’t more fantastic performances to come with Indiana, Rutgers, and Michigan State remaining on the schedule. What made Barkley’s game against Iowa particularly impressive was that the Hawkeye defense held Wisconsin’s Corey Clement to 3.8 yards per carry and Minnesota’s combo of Shannon Brooks and Rodney Smith to 99 total rushing yards.
Jason Cabinda - The junior out of Flemington, New Jersey set the tone for Penn State’s defense when he leaped over the offensive line to stop C.J. Beathard on a quarterback sneak and end Iowa’s first possession of the game. Cabinda ended the night with eight tackles — twice as much as any other Penn State defender — and was instrumental in holding Hawkeye halfbacks to 48 yards rushing for the game.
Trace McSorley - The Nittany Lion quarterback didn’t have to throw the ball too much against Iowa, but when he did he was highly effective with 240 passing yards on just 18 throws. 11 of those passes were completions, which means Penn State was ripping off more than 20 yards per catch. It certainly helped that big targets like Saeed Blacknall and Mike Gesicki found themselves wide open deep in Iowa’s coverage, but McSorley also made good decisions under pressure when the options weren’t as obvious.
Kevin Givens - Another key factor in Penn State’s brilliant run defense, this redshirt freshman out of Altoona totaled four tackles from his defensive tackle spot and also picked up one of four sacks of Hawkeye quarterback C.J. Beathard. As a player who can be a threat against both the run and the pass, Givens is part of a young defensive line that might already be one of the fiercest in the conference. The departures of Carl Nassib, Anthony Zettel, and Austin Johnson were very noticeable at the start of the season, but thanks to Givens and company, it now looks like the future of the defensive line can be just as bright as the past.