Penn State went into the mysterious, children of the corn world that is Kinnick Stadium last night and emerged with a rather miraculous walk-off 21-19 victory capped by a touchdown pass from Trace McSorley to Juwan Johnson.
Here are our three takeaways from that win:
1. Saquon Barkley is the best player in the country and also possibly an alien
I mean, come on. I’ve resorted to just laughing at some of the plays this guy makes at this point because, despite being paid money to write words professionally, I’ve run out of words to describe what he does on a regular basis.
Barkley is going to go down in history as the best back, in a long line of talented backs, to carry the ball for the Nittany Lions and may well have put himself at the head of the Heisman Trophy race with last night’s performance. Barkley finished with 368 total yards and one touchdown on 43 touches.
Do not think it gets said enough: Watching Saquon Barkley play sure is a privilege.— Greg Pickel (@GregPickel) September 24, 2017
2. Trace McGritty is my quarterback and I will defend him to the death
Trace McSorley’s numbers were rather middling last night. The junior went 31 of 48 for 284 yards, one touchdown and one interception while adding 61 yards on 17 carries. But calls for McSorley’s benching are nothing short of absurd.
When Penn State needed him most, McSorley answered the call as he’s so often done for James Franklin’s squad in the past 13 months. In fact, his numbers are on pace to improve from last year’s season and his two interceptions have come on plays that could be ruled the fault of others. He’s up 10 percent in completion percentage and is still on the team’s emotional leaders. McSorley will be Penn State’s quarterback until he decides otherwise, deal with it.
3. Penn State needs to find itself a right tackle (and may have done so last night)
Andrew Nelson has given a ton to Penn State’s football program, but after two knee injuries he’s just not capable to playing the right tackle spot at an adequate level. Nelson is slow out of his stance and struggles to move laterally post-injury. He got burnt on a number of plays last night including one that led to McSorley’s arm being hit leading to the interception.
The good news is Penn State may have found its right tackle in redshirt freshman Will Fries. Fries, despite being beaten a couple times in his own right by Iowa’s AJ Epenesa (who’s a true freshman that may well be an all-american in the future), Fries was solid in both the run game and the passing game, particularly on the final drive. Don’t be surprised if Fries takes the starting job next week against Indiana and run with it.
SUPER SPECIAL FOURTH TAKEAWAY
4. Kinnick Stadium night voodoo is real
I’m not a very religious man, but whatever the hell happens in that stadium in Iowa City at night is very real and it scares the ever loving crap out of me. Penn State did well by itself to get out of there with a win in hand. The Nittany Lions now need to get far away from there and never, ever go back.