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Keys to Penn State against Rutgers

Penn State football beat writer Johnny McGonigal gives his keys to the game against Rutgers.
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Penn State football beat writer Johnny McGonigal gives his keys to the game against Rutgers.

FOURTH QUARTER

END OF GAME (Josh): And that’ll do it for Penn State. The Nittany Lions overcome a slow start to win 35-6. I don’t think the final score was all that surprising ... but the first 20 minutes sure were. If PSU were playing a better team, it would’ve been in trouble. Luckily for PSU, it won’t be playing another good team until bowl season.

6:52 left in 4th Quarter (John): Well hello there, Mike Gesicki. The senior tight end caught his first touchdown pass since nabbing two against Pitt on Sept. 9. It was McSorley’s third total touchdown on the day. Not too shabby from the signal-caller.

11:07 left in 4th Quarter (Josh): Penn State is still leading 28-6, and I’m surprised there hasn’t been an exodus yet. Maybe some fans just waiting to see Barkley break one — but he’s averaging just 2.2 yards per carry so far. Think that speaks volumes about the offensive line.

THIRD QUARTER

1:42 left in 3nd Quarter (Josh): And Saquon Barkley gets another TD. Barkley now has 10 carries for 16 yards and two scores. That’s not 160 yards; that’s 16 yards. *Yawn* Penn State leads 28-6. Maybe you’ll cover, after all, PSU bettors.

3:58 left in third quarter (Josh): This has to be the most boring two-possession game I’ve ever watched. Rutgers is so bad and, you know it doesn’t really matter how close this game is, Penn State has enough talent that it’s going to get some points on you. Rutgers had 20 passing yards. At least the game is moving quickly. Penn State is going to win this one — but it ain’t getting any style points.

6:00 left in third quarter (John): Well, thanks for coming out, Rutgers. A hook-and-ladder and Saquon Barkley hurdle is just unfair, especially in the red zone against this Scarlet Knight defense. Barkley finished it off with a one-yard touchdown run. 21-6 Penn State.

10:50 left in third quarter (John): Announced attendance at Beaver Stadium is 107,531, key word there being “announced.” There might be 100,000 people here, but there plenty of empty seats. No shot is there 107,000-plus here. The tailgate lots are a different story ...

14:52 left in third quarter (John): Hoo boy, special teams have been woof for both teams today. Rutgers kickoff returner Janarion Grant fumbled to open the second half, and it was true freshman cornerback Lamont Wade who forced it. Garrett Taylor recovered. The Nittany Lions couldn’t do anything with it, though.

HALFTIME TAKEAWAYS

Halftime (John): Penn State leads Rutgers 14-6 at the break. Here are a few halftime takeaways:

▪ Penn State's offensive line is bad. Very, very bad.

Saquon Barkley has minus-three yards on five carries against a Scarlet Knight defense that's allowed 223 rushing yards per game the last six weeks.

Penn State's tried to switch up its offensive look this week, adding in a pistol set, but it hasn't worked at all.

It's got to be frustrating for Barkley, who just can't catch a break.

▪  DaeSean Hamilton might be drafted based on his route-running alone.

On his second-quarter touchdown catch, he tripped his man up with a clean out-and-in post pattern. Trace McSorley hit him in stride for Hamilton's seventh touchdown catch of the year.

Penn State's going to miss him next year — and some NFL team will be happy to have him.

▪  Marcus Allen is making his presence felt.

The senior safety has only three tackles — but all of them have generated some crowd reaction. The hard-hitter is popping out there.

It wouldn't be a surprise to see him jar the football loose in the second half.

SECOND QUARTER

1:13 left in 2nd Quarter (Josh): Well, Rutgers couldn’t contain PSU forever. McSorley just found a wide-open DaeSean Hamilton for a 22-yard TD. The Nittany Lions lead 14-6. That prevents this half from being a complete waste. But, if you’re grading the hometown team at home, they still don’t deserve above a C. Penn State may be winning, but it hasn’t been a pretty game. The game isn’t this close because the Scarlet Knights are a good team.

1:18 left in 2nd Quarter (Josh): Rutgers’ DB didn’t appear to turn his head, and he’s going to get flagged for that one. Big break for PSU. That puts the ball at the RU 22 with 1:18 left in the half.

1:50 left in 2nd Quarter (Josh): Juwan Johnson keeping this drive alive with two first-down catches so far. The Nittany Lions are driving and could/should extend their 7-6 lead before the half.

6:16 left in 2nd Quarter (Josh): Saquon Barkley has minus-7 rushing yards so far today and no receiving yards. This could be the end of his Heisman run. It’s one thing to be stopped by Ohio State or Michigan State; it’s another to be limited by Rutgers. Again, you can’t fault Barkley — he can’t even get back to the line of scrimmage. It’s a shame the most electric player in college football is hindered like this.

9:32 left in 2nd Quarter (Josh): And Trace McSorley guides the Nittany Lions to a quick TD over the team that boasts the Big Ten record for most Twitter depictions of a green dumpster on fire. Penn State leads 7-6. The offense looked good on that drive, with three explosive plays. It was an ugly first 20 minutes for the Nittany Lions, but it looks as if PSU might’ve finally woken up.

11:16 left in 2nd Quarter (Josh): After another short Rutgers field goal, the Scarlet Knights have extended their lead to 6-0. Yes, really. Penn State’s losing to Rutgers. RUTGERS. The Scarlet Knights have gotten better this year; they’re no longer the bottom of the Big Ten. They’re just near the bottom of the Big Ten.

14:00 left in 2nd Quarter (Josh): These “wild dogs” look neutered. Listen, Michigan State and Ohio State were both understandable losses in a lot of respects. If PSU wouldn’t wake up in this one? It would have to be one of the worst losses at Beaver Stadium in modern history. 31-point favorites ... my goodness.

15:00 left in 2nd Quarter (Josh): And the first quarter is in the books; Rutgers leads 3-0. The Scarlet Knights are outgaining PSU 75-24, and the Nittany Lions have yet to convert a thrid down (0 for 2). Pretty terrible start.

FIRST QUARTER

1:55 left in 1st Quarter (Josh): There you go, Rutgers. Way to show some guts. Faced with a similar fourth-and-1 situation as the last drive, it decdied to go for it — and converted. That’s the right call in a game like this. Penn State’s offense has sputtered in limited time; if Rutgers can get the better of PSU’s defense here, it’s time for fans to panic a little bit.

4:52 left in 1st Quarter (Josh): Well, it was an impressive Carson Wentz-esque escape for Trace McSorley ... but he didn’t get the first down. Penn State looks more like Maryland at this point than a previous College Football Playoff contender. The offensive line isn’t creating holes against Rutgers, the biggest play has gone for 14 yards — and it’s 3-0 Rutgers. Penn State has been a first-quarter team this season. It’s not today.

6:33 left in 1st Quarter (Josh): It’s fourth-and-1; you’re Rutgers. Go for it. What have you got to lose? You’re going to have to take chances if you want to win a game over a more-talented team. I’m sure Penn State’s fine with the punt. ... And I’m sure the Nittany Lion offense is going to have to come “on” at some point.

10:59 left in 1st Quarter (Josh): And the Nittany Lions go 17 yards on their first drive and punt. James Franklin promised he’d have this team ready to play today ... and it looks like these Nittany Lions are sleep-walking through the first five minutes of this quarter. This should be a boring game. Penn State should dominate. And, if it doesn’t, there’s a big problem here.

12:48 left in 1st Quarter (Josh): There’s no nice way to say this: That was a pathetic start. Penn State’s defense held strong and only allowed a field goal, but it’s Rutgers. The Nittany Lions should already be up two touchdowns. ... OK, OK, I kid a little bit there. But Penn State should win this game by four-plus TDs. It’s a 31-point favorite. The offense needs to deliver here.

15:00 left in 1st Quarter (John): Well, that’s one way to start. Rutgers pooch kicked short of Saquon Barkley, but behind Penn State’s up-backs. Barkley head-first for the ball, but couldn’t recover the live ball. The Scarlet Knights have mighty good field position...

Kickoff (John): Minutes after a fly-by, we’re ready to go here at Beaver Stadium. Rutgers won the toss and deferred to the second half. Penn State will receive...

20 Minutes Before Gametime (John): Hmm, this is new. Brandon Smith is starting in place of Manny Bowen at linebacker. The junior linebacker is not warming up with the Nittany Lions. Buchholz and Bates’ absence was expected, but not Bowen’s. The New Jersey native is third on the team in tackles (51).

30 Minutes Before Gametime (John): As expected, Penn State’s going to be without defensive end Ryan Buchholz and left tackle Ryan Bates today. Neither of them were dressed as their teammates warmed up. They were left off this week’s depth chart, so their absence is no suprise. Both starters were injured at Ohio State. Buchholz was carted off on the defense’s first play, and Bates had his leg rolled up on by Saquon Barkley. Kevin Givens should start at defensive end in place of Buchholz, and expect Will Fries to man Trace McSorley’s blindside.

45 Minutes Before Gametime (John): If calamity strikes and Trace McSorley and Tommy Stevens get hurt, it looks like it’d be Jake Zembiec at quarterback. Third-string true freshman Sean Clifford has his throwing hand wrapped and isn’t warming up. Don’t think it’ll matter, but you never know...

90 Minutes Before Gametime (John): Greetings from Beaver Stadium. It is rather chilly out — 25 degrees, to be exact. Pack an extra coat if you’ve got it. The No. 14 Nittany Lions have already arrived and are on the field warming up. A small, brave contigent of Nittanyville students are taking on the cold to snag the best seats. Given the opponent, noon start and Homecoming tailgates, though, expect this one to be less-than-full at kick. But if you’re at home, stay with us here for observations and analysis throughout the afternoon. Per usual, I’ll be handling pregame, and CDT sports editor Josh Moyer’s got in-game covered.

Who: Rutgers at No. 14 Penn State

Where: Beaver Stadium

When: Noon

TV/Radio: BTN/WQWK 1450

Previews: Click here

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