Penn State Football

No. 10 Penn State dominates Nebraska on Senior Day

Mike Gesicki kisses Beaver Stadium goodbye after fourth-quarter touchdown

Penn State senior tight end Mike Gesicki blows a kiss to the crowd in Beaver Stadium after his 17-yard touchdown reception from Trace McSorley to give the Nittany Lions a 49-24 lead against Nebraska in the fourth quarter.
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Penn State senior tight end Mike Gesicki blows a kiss to the crowd in Beaver Stadium after his 17-yard touchdown reception from Trace McSorley to give the Nittany Lions a 49-24 lead against Nebraska in the fourth quarter.

Penn State’s offense reigned supreme on Saturday night.

The No. 10 Nittany Lions routed Nebraska 56-44 on Senior Day at Beaver Stadium, extending their home winning streak to 14 games.

Penn State (9-2, 6-2 Big Ten) outgained Nebraska (4-7, 3-5) by a total of 609-466. And somehow, the gap felt wider as Nittany Lions dominated and the Cornhuskers fell flat on their faces — outside of a few garbage-time touchdowns.

Player of the game

Saquon Barkley: Although a Heisman Trophy win isn’t in his future — the award probably belongs to Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield — Barkley solidified an invite to New York with a vintage performance.

In reality, Barkley was probably going to the Heisman ceremony with or without this beastly night. But he quelled any doubt with 224 total yards (158 rushing, 66 receiving) and three touchdowns. His first score, a 65-yard dash, looked way too easy. His two others, red-zone bursts, broke the Huskers’ will.

At halftime, Barkley had 208 yards — 131 more than Nebraska’s entire offense.

For the first time since his 358 all-purpose yards at Iowa on Sept. 23, Barkley did what he wanted, running free in the open field.

He was bottled up in recent weeks. Barkley entered Saturday averaging 3.81 yards per carry in his previous six contests.

Penn State’s offensive line needed this one — and so did Barkley.

Turning point

Gesicki’s grab: Senior tight end Mike Gesicki nabbed a red-zone touchdown catch last week and did the same against Nebraska, effectively ending any chance Penn State might not win.

Nittany Lion fans had some cause for concern early. The Cornhuskers took a 10-7 lead in the first quarter. But rushing touchdowns by Barkley and quarterback Trace McSorley on back-to-back drives gave Penn State a cushy 21-10 lead in the second.

On the next series, Gesicki put it out of reach with a nine-yard catch over a Nebraska defender.

Penn State was up 28-10 with 9:23 to go in the second stanza. There was plenty of time, but the Huskers were done.

Unsung hero

Penn State’s receivers: This could’ve gone to McSorley, who was firing darts. The redshirt junior completed 24 of 36 passes for 325 yards.

But give props to the Nittany Lion pass-catchers.

DeAndre Thompkins hauled in a 15-yard touchdown and blocked two Nebraska defenders on Juwan Johnson’s early 43-yard gain. Johnson finished with five grabs for 105 yards, DaeSean Hamilton tallied 42 yards on four catches, and Gesicki had 47 yards.

There have been a few games where one receiver goes off; Hamilton has three 100-yard games alone.

But this was a group effort. When the receivers are breaking down film Sunday, they’ll all be pleased with their production.

Top highlight

Saquon’s sprint: Due in large part to shoddy offensive line play, Barkley has been held in-check to 63 rushing yards or less in five games this season. He surpassed that number on the third play from scrimmage.

It’s been a while since Barkley has truly broken loose. He had a 36-yard run against Ohio State and Michigan State, but it’d been a month since we saw something like his 65-yard dash that opened the scoring for Penn State.

Barkley secured the handoff from McSorley, bolted for an open gap created by left tackle Will Fries and guard Steven Gonzalez and escaped a diving tackle attempt in the second level. He was off along the sidelines. Barkley breezed by linebacker Chris Weber, and Johnson took care of defensive back Lamar Jackson.

Without being touched, the back glided into the south end zone. The soggy student section erupted after witnessing a sight for sore eyes: Barkley dusting opponents for a long touchdown run.

What’s next

Road finale: With Senior Day in the rearview mirror, Penn State is set to finish out the regular season at Maryland. The Terrapins (4-7) have wins over Texas, Towson, Minnesota and Indiana — but have been outscored 190-54 by ranked teams at the time (Central Florida, Ohio State, Wisconsin, Michigan and Michigan State). The road tilt will kick at either 3:30 or 3:45 p.m.

John McGonigal: 814-231-4630, @jmcgonigal9

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