PSU notebook: Barkley’s 80-yard run highlights win

STATE COLLEGE — Highlights, lowlights and in-betweens of Penn State’s game Saturday at Beaver Stadium, a 52-0 win over Akron:

PLAY OF THE GAME: Saquon Barkley’s 80-yard run in the second quarter set up a 4-yard run by Trace McSorley for a 21-0 lead. Barkley said he realized he stepped out when looking at scoreboard replays. Coach James Franklin argued with the officials, but said after the game he was trying to learn why the play wasn’t reviewable. It wasn’t actually a scoring play or one where Barkley’s next step after going out of bounds would have scored, Franklin said.

OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE GAME: Barkley finished with 172 yards and two touchdowns on 14 carries. He also caught three passes for 54 yards. All this came despite no touches on the first series, which Franklin attributed to Akron making other options more appealing.

DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE GAME: Amani Oruwariye set an early tone with a first-quarter interception on a pass. He also broke up a pass in the second quarter intended for Kwad Smith. He finished with three tackles.

SPECIAL TEAMS PLAYER OF THE GAME: DeAndre Thompkins returned a punt 61 yards for a first-quarter touchdown, Penn State’s first since Derrick Williams in 2008. He finished with 4 punt returns for 127 yards, just three yards fewer than the entire team gained in the entire 2014 season and three more yards than it had in 2000.

AKRON PLAYER OF THE GAME: Safety Zach Guiser’s 10 tackles were four more than any other Zip. He also had an interception.

LEWISBURG: Brandon Smith started on the kickoff team and played some linebacker. He finished with four tackles, one for a loss.

BEST RUNS: Thompkins and Barkley’s runs were unique in their own way. It was the second-longest of Barkley’s career, one shy of the 81-yarder last year vs. Purdue.

BEST PASS: Most of Trace McSorley’s were pretty good, as he completed 18 of 25 for 280 yards and two scores.

WORST PASS: But, McSorley underthrew Juwan Johnson in the end zone on a second-and-11 on the first series and was intercepted by Guiser.

BEST CATCH: Oruwariye intercepting a Thomas Woodson pass intended for Fransohn Bickley down the sideline into PSU territory in the first quarter.

WORST KICK: It’s still kind of surprising whenever Tyler Davis misses, such has the 38-yarder wide left in the second quarter.

BEST KICK: Though it’s not surprising when he hits a 46-yarder for a career long, as he did in the third quarter for a 38-0 lead.

WORST PENALTY: The targeting against Akron’s Deon’Tae Moore on Tommy Stevens was his second in four plays. Had the deserved ejection not happened, it’s the time where the player needs pulled to calm down.

WORST CALL: Just one of those things, where Akron thinks it’s getting a do-over after a running-into-the-kicker penalty on Cam Brown wipes out a lousy 32-yard punt. But then Thompkins takes the next punt and returns it for a score.

BEST EFFORT: Barkley cut across the middle for a 17-yard first-down pickup late in the first quarter, at one point hurdling prone blocker Brendan Mahon

HIDDEN STAT: Can’t get over how big Thompkins’ punt return day was after all those years of sanctions hurting special teams and the poor production of much of Joe Paterno’s later years.

TELLING STAT: The Lions averaged 8.8 yards per play to Akron’s 2.5.

MISLEADING STAT: It didn’t matter that the Lions were only 3 of 9 on third downs.

PERSONNEL: Lamont Wade and Tariq Castro-Fields, true freshman, were on kickoff coverage. Defensive end Yatur Gross-Matos, also a true freshmen, appeared briefly.

MILESTONES: This was PSU’s first 50-point home game since 52 against Eastern Illinois in 2009… This was also PSU’s eighth straight game of 35 or more points, it’s the longest active one among Power 5 teams, breaking the school record set in 1973… Gesicki’s two touchdowns were a career high… The 38-point first half was the most since 35 at Syracuse in 2008.

BEST QUOTE: What is and isn’t an explosive play depends on who you ask. Franklin clarified how Penn State measures them Saturday, saying it’s 12 yards for a run and 15 for a catch, and trying to win that category, as well as turnovers, penalties, and average field position, are what the staff notices.

“And we won explosive plays, 16-0 or 16-1, depending on the end,” Franklin said.

Franklin could have been referring to Kato Nelson’s 13-yard run for Akron on the game’s penultimate play.

NEXT WEEK: Pittsburgh at Penn State, 3:30 p.m. on ABC.

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