Inhale, and exhale.
Despite leaving in the third quarter, Penn State star running back Saquon Barkley is “fine,” head coach James Franklin said after the Nittany Lions’ 39-0 win over Rutgers on Saturday night at High Point Solutions Stadium.
Barkley, who finished with 117 all-purpose yards and a touchdown, was hit from behind, a Scarlet Knight defender’s helmet striking him in the back of the head. The sophomore was helped off the field by trainers and appeared to undergo concussion protocol on the Penn State sideline.
Franklin said holding him out of the game was precautionary. Penn State was leading Rutgers 25-0 at the end of the third quarter.
“He could’ve went back in,” the coach added.
In his stead, Barkley’s backups all made sizable impacts. Andre Robinson had six carries for 20 yards and a touchdown, Mark Allen caught a 27-yard score, and Miles Sanders ripped off a 57-yard gainer.
Together, the trio of backups combined for 170 all-purpose yards.
“Saquon’s one of the best running backs in the country,” quarterback Trace McSorley said, “but the stable of the guys we have behind him, Saquon is so good that no one gets to see the real talent we have at that position.”
McSorley praised each back individually.
He lauded Robinson’s nose for the end zone; the redshirt freshman has four touchdowns on 22 carries. McSorley said Sanders is like “lightning,” and gave props to Allen, who “has a little move and attitude to him.”
“When they got their opportunity, they took advantage of it,” McSorley continued. “That was awesome to see.”
McGovern was available if needed
Franklin said freshman offensive lineman Connor McGovern could have played Saturday.
“We’re always going to put our players’ safety first,” Franklin said. “He had been cleared by the doctors, had practiced all week long but just (Derek) Dowrey’s done a great job for us all year long and if we could just give him another two days to get ready so that he’s at full strength next week all week at practice.”
McGovern left last week’s game against Indiana with an injury and Franklin said he didn’t get to practice this week as much as he would have liked. McGovern practiced with the first team on Wednesday.
So the Nittany Lions started Derek Dowrey at guard along with tackles Ryan Bates and Chasz Wright, guard Steven Gonzalez and center Brian Gaia.
Franklin also decided not to dress freshman Will Fries for Saturday night’s game. Fries is expected to redshirt this season.
“We weren’t going to dress Will for some things that we won’t discuss,” Franklin said. “No behavioral issues or anything like that. We weren’t going to dress him. We knew that going into it.”
Making his mark
Junior tight end Mike Gesicki set a new Penn State record without even realizing it.
With five catches for 47 yards against the Scarlet Knights, Gesicki set a new single-season receptions record for a Penn State tight end. The New Jersey native’s 42 catches this year surpassed the previous record (41), set by Andrew Quarless in 2009.
When asked about the record, Gesicki was somewhat surprised, but thanked his teammates and coaching staff.
“It’s a tribute to the guys around me and the offense,” Gesicki said. “The opportunities (the coaches) are giving me, I appreciate it all. Obviously that’s something that I’m proud of and have worked for.”