The Beaver Stadium press box shook more times than anyone inside could count, thanks to a record crowd and Penn State’s inspired performance in its biggest game all season.
The No. 2 Nittany Lions ousted No. 19 Michigan in a 42-13 win on Saturday night, giving further credence to their high ranking.
Penn State did so in front of a record crowd. An announced 110,823 fans showed up at Beaver Stadium to watch a battle of Big Ten giants, surpassing the 110,753 mark set on Sept. 14, 2002 against Nebraska.
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Saquon Barkley: The Heisman front-runner played like it, becoming the first player in Penn State history to accumulate 3,000 rushing yards and 1,000 receiving yards in a career.
Barkley sparked the fuse on a stadium ready to erupt, exhilarating everyone who saw his 69-yard touchdown run on the game’s first drive.
But he wasn’t done. Not yet.
The junior running back handled a speed-option pitch on the following series and bolted for the end zone. He got to the corner, notching his second touchdown of the night — a 15-yard score.
Barkley was quiet for the third quarter, but he was bound to pop off for another big one. And he did. After dropping a long gain earlier in the game, Barkley bobbled a heave down the Penn State sideline but secured it — wheeling away in celebration after a 42-yard touchdown catch.
On the night, he totaled 176 all-purpose yards.
Campbell’s strip: It was reviewed after the fact, but it wasn’t really close. Penn State cornerback Christian Campbell ripped the ball out of the hands of Michigan quarterback John O’Korn — and helped Penn State clinch a “W.”
Early in the fourth quarter, Campbell flew into the Michigan backfield on a blitz. He was patient after being blocked, quickly dismissing of his man and getting to O’Korn. He knocked the ball free, and Penn State defensive lineman Robert Windsor fell on it.
It was a back-breaker for Michigan, which trailed by 15 in the final stanza. Of course, Barkley’s 42-yard touchdown catch came just two plays later.
Trace McSorley: On a night in which Barkley took everyone’s breath away, it was McSorley who led Penn State from the second quarter on.
McSorley dodged would-be tacklers when needed and held firm in the pocket more often than not to deliver his wideouts passes in-stride, finishing with 282 passing yards while completing 17 of 26 passes.
Oh, and the kid had three rushing touchdowns. He made a serious difference on the ground, the first time really since the Pittsburgh game in Week 2.
It was those first two scores — a short 3-yard burst just before halftime and a weaving 13-yard scamper — that proved to be the difference for Penn State.
Saquon’s stunner: Joe Moorhead absolutely duped the Michigan defense with a previously unseen play-call — and Barkley executed it to perfection.
On the second offensive play of the game, the prized part of Penn State’s attack fielded a direct snap, spearheaded a read option alongside Trace McSorley, kept the ball to himself and ensured quickly that it was the right decision.
Barkley shot out of a proverbial cannon through the heart of Michigan’s defense untouched. Every Wolverine in sight was leaning the complete opposite way.
Barkley was chased by a few Michigan defenders — but not chased down. There’s quite a difference. The running back raced into the end zone for a 69-yard touchdown that shook Beaver Stadium to its core.
The Nittany Lions couldn’t have asked for a better start — and Barkley couldn’t have nabbed a better Heisman moment than dusting the best defense in the country on the nation’s biggest stage.
A trip to the Shoe: After Penn State’s first real test of the season against Michigan, the Nittany Lions hit the road for their toughest challenge of 2017.
Ohio State awaits.
The No. 6 Buckeyes (6-1) host Penn State after coming off a bye week, and they are really rolling. After losing to Oklahoma in Week 2, Ohio State has won its last five games by a margin of 266-56.