Thanks to last Saturday night’s game at Iowa, every man, woman, and child in the United States of America now knows Saquon Barkley. They know, too, that he is both real, and spectacular.
Defensive coordinators have known this for considerably longer because he’s proven nearly impossible to stop since Week 2 of 2015. But one of the few DCs to stop the speeding Saquon visits Beaver Stadium this Saturday, as head ball coach of the Indiana Football Hoosiers. Last November in Bloomington, Barkley carried the pill 33 times, and tallied a paltry 58 yards. That’s 1.76 yards per carry, for the running back from Whitehall, PA (actual place of birth: planet Krypton). Let’s see what the Hoosiers did.
Kill The Lights
The first thing Indiana did was penetrate. Penetration, particularly by large fat men in the middle of the defense, ruins a lot of rushing attacks. To wit, in the gif below, we see DT #93 beat then-freshman guard Steven Gonzalez and swallow an entire Saquon as a snack between series.
Indiana also launched LB #8 Tegray Scales repeatedly into gaps on the snap of the ball. Forget about hook zones or pass coverage responsibilities - Scales frequently had none. His task was to become Jeremiah Trotter circa 2000 Philly Eagles: shoot a gap and cause problems. If it’s a run, hooray - tackle the ball carrier. If it’s a pass, hooray - sack the QB if you can catch him.
Scales wasn’t alone in his frequent apathy for pass coverage responsibilities. Here, in the gif below, Indiana OLB #47 (top of the screen) cares not a whit for what happens with the receivers behind him, and instead hangs out until he’s sure it’s a run, then blasts off like it’s a North Korean missile launch party. (Note also ILB #44 waiting for nothing before attacking a gap).
The point being two-fold: 1) expect a bunch of blitzing, stunting, and dudes appearing in gaps out of nowhere on Saturday, for the purpose of stopping Penn State’s rush offense (and #26 Barkley in particular); and 2) expect us to use play action and throw it behind those LBs who are so intent on stopping the run, as shown in the gif below:
That ball, of course, went to Chris Godwin. Unfortunately for Dear Old State, Chris now catches passes for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. And thru the first 3 games of 2017, we Nittany Lion fans have noticed his absence.
2016 Receiving Stats
2017 Receiving Stats - 3 Games
To no one’s surprise, PSU’s “X” receiver’s production declined significantly. In the first 3 games - vs. Akron, AkronB, and Southern Akron - half of Godwin’s workload shifted to Barkley and TE Mike Gesicki.
Last week’s game in Iowa City may have signaled a change in Joe Moorhead’s division of labor. Juwan Johnson - Godwin’s replacement at the “X” - earned BSD MVP honors (nuts), with 7 balls for 92 yards, and the game-winning touchdown. The coaches called Johnson’s number with 0:04 seconds left, and the sophomore delivered.
From a near alignment, Johnson had to release inside of the Iowa LB at the top of the shot below, close the distance rapidly to his mark (Iowa S #19 with red ‘x’) - and cross that safety’s face. He has to cross the safety’s face - i.e., get inside leverage - or he loses.
In the gif below, S #19 flips his hips on the snap to encourage Johnson outside. He wants desperately to maintain inside leverage, and push Johnson to the corner. But - oh man - check out the jockstrap that gets dropped near the goal line. That is, if you can see it thru the cloud of black, rubber pellets that Iowa called field turf.
Hit The Lights
Saquon got most of the attention last weekend - rightfully so, since he’s quite obviously an alien from a distant galaxy. But if Johnson - or Saeed Blacknall, who caught a bullet on 4th and 2 that same drive - can run every route like it’s 4th down, he’s going to win consistently. Not a lot of DBs at this level can match up with that shake. And with Barkley in the backfield, there aren’t a lot of defenders looking at Johnson to begin with. (At least for now - keep shaking like that and defensive coordinators will learn his name, too).
Here’s the play chart with description of the 1st half offensive plays. So close on quite a few plays. Credit Iowa for some well timed blitzes. Phil Parker guessed right a lot.
|Possession||Down||Ball On||Yds Gained||Descrpt|
|1||1st and 10||Iowa 42||7||Speed option left, with Mahon pulling. Iowa takes Barkley, McSorley keeps|
|1||2nd and 3||Iowa 35||-1||RPO bad read, gives to Barkley. Iowa blitzes A gap, McGovern whiffs, Barkley TFL by Jewell|
|1||3rd and 4||Iowa 36||2||Iowa in single high man under, but McSorley swings it to Barkley (long handoff), who draws a lot of attention quickly.|
|1||4th and 2||Iowa 34||-5||Delay of Game|
|1||4th and 7||Iowa 39||Punt|
|2||1st and 10||Iowa 45||0||RPO to Gesicki up the seam, wide open, ball batted at line, incomplete|
|2||2nd and 10||Iowa 45||0||Deep post to Blacknall, bad throw, incomplete|
|2||3rd and 10||Iowa 45||-3||Nelson driven into McSorley at top of drop, McSorley step up into Mahon's DT, gets sacked|
|2||4th and 13||Iowa 48||Punt|
|3||1st and 10||PSU 33||15||Barkley runs left for 15|
|3||1st and 10||PSU 48||5||Swing pass to Barkley (long handoff)|
|3||2nd and 5||Iowa 47||6||Power O, Barkley runs for 6|
|3||1st and 10||Iowa 41||7||Quick hitch to Thompkins|
|3||2nd and 3||Iowa 34||3||Split zone, Robinson runs for 3|
|3||1st and 10||Iowa 31||9||Swing pass to Barkley (long handoff)|
|3||2nd and 1||Iowa 22||12||Counter off split zone, Barkley runs for 12|
|3||1st and Goal||Iowa 10||8||RPO give to Robinson, runs for 8|
|3||2nd and Goal||Iowa 2||-1||Iowa stacks the line, all out blitz. Not enough blockers, and McSorley "keeps" on read option, gets swallowed immediately|
|3||3rd and Goal||Iowa 3||2||Shovel pass, but Barkley's covered. McSorley keeps, Jewell wins race to the pylon by 6 inches.|
|3||4th and Goal||Iowa 1||Field Goal|
|4||1st and 10||PSU 40||0||Iowa plays qtr-qtr-half. McSorley overthrows 12-yd comeback to Blacknall|
|4||2nd and 10||PSU 40||5||Inverted veer, give to Barkley who runs right for 5|
|4||3rd and 5||PSU 45||13||Shallow cross to Johnson|
|4||1st and 10||Iowa 42||1||RPO to Holland on quick out. Kinda ugly, Holland for 1 yard|
|4||2nd and 9||Iowa 41||8||Iowa blitz, McSorley dumps to Barkley who picks up 8|
|4||3rd and 1||Iowa 33||5||Inverted veer, McSorley keeps, gains 5|
|4||1st and 10||Iowa 28||0||Iowa in single high man under. Routes run DBs off deep, swing to Barkley (long handoff) - bad throw, incomplete.|
|4||2nd and 10||Iowa 28||5||Swing pass to Barkley (long handoff)|
|4||3rd and 5||Iowa 23||0||Iowa blitzes 6, no deep safeties, 1-on-1 across the board. Ball batted at line, incomplete.|
|4||4th and 5||Iowa 23||Missed FG wide left|
|5||1st and 10||Iowa 38||-2||Inverted veer. Unblocked DE blows up Barkley at mesh. This distracts pulling Gonzo who leaves Jewell unblocked, who tackles McSorley for a loss of 2|
|5||2nd and 12||Iowa 40||0||Iowa blitzes 6 but it's picked up. McSorley comes to Gesicki late, throws an out after Gesicki's already turned upfield. Wide open, but incomplete.|
|5||3rd and 12||Iowa 40||0||Iowa plays deep, rushes 4. 12yd comeback to Thompkins is batted at line. Incomplete.|
|5||4th and 12||Iowa 40||Punt downed at Iowa 1, leads to safety.|
|6||1st and 10||PSU 35||8||Read option, McSorley keeps, runs for 8|
|6||2nd and 2||PSU 43||18||RPO inverted veer, throw to Johnson on skinny post for 18|
|6||1st and 10||Iowa 39||0||Iowa rushes 4, 12yd curl to Blacknall batted at line, incomplete|
|6||2nd and 10||Iowa 39||7||Speed option right with Gonzo pulling. Barkley runs for 7|
|6||3rd and 3||Iowa 32||0||Iowa blitzes 7, no deep safeties, 1-on-1 across the board. McSorley chucks it to Polk on a post. S Hooker bats away, incomplete.|
|6||4th and 3||Iowa 32||TOD||Iowa corner blitz. Play action. McSorley hits Polk on shallow cross, Polk drops ball. Turnover on downs.|
|7||1st and 10||PSU 6||-2||Iowa twists DTs, beats our OL in inside zone blocking. Barkley tries to bounce wide, runs into DE. TFL.|
|7||2nd and 12||PSU 4||23||Iowa in qtr-qtr-half. McSorley hits Hamilton between zone on deep corner for 23.|
|7||1st and 10||PSU 27||7||8yd comeback to Thompkins from far hash, complete for 7|
|7||2nd and 3||PSU 34||11||Inside zone, Barkley pops for 11|
|1st and 10||PSU 45||INT||Iowa in qtr-qtr-half. Gesicki wide open on corner route behind LB. Nelson whiffs on DE, who hits McSorley as he throws. INT.|