John McGonigal previews Fiesta Bowl from University of Phoenix Stadium
END OF GAME: Final score: Penn State 35, Washington 28. Saquon Barkley declines to tell ESPN after the game whether he’s declaring for the NFL draft ... but, c’mon now, he is. He just doesn’t want to make today about him. It’s about the team. And it was a good ending to a season that didn’t quite go as expected. Still, it was fun team to watch. And Barkley? We may never see another running back at Penn State again like him.
5:00 left in 4th Quarter (Josh): That third-down catch by Juwan Johnson right there was the turning point. If he doesn’t get the first down, Washington gets the ball back with plenty of time. Instead, Penn State’s able to keep the drive alive.
6:52 left in 4th Quarter (Josh): After a 69-yard TD run by Myles Gaskin, Penn State’s lead has been slimmed down to 35-28. If five plays went the other way in this game, Penn State would be leading by five TDs. Just been a strange game for PSU.
10:11 left in 4th Quarter (Josh): Penn State’s able to force the punt, and McSorley’s interception is forgiven by the blue-and-white contingent. The PSU defense has seven tackles-for-loss today, and it’s been forcing a lot more pressure than it did in similar past games like USC, OSU and MSU.
13:05 left in 4th Quarter (Josh): And Washington gets the ball back! The slant was tipped by Washington’s quick linebacker and intercepted. Those are the kinds of breaks Washington is going to need to rally from two TDs down. Let’s see if the defense has an answer this time around.
14:09 left in 4th Quarter (Josh): A fourth-down hurdle by Saquon Barkley? We’re all going to miss that. I don’t know if he’s Penn State’s best-ever pure runner. But he’s the best all-around running back the Nittany Lions have ever had. Barkley and Lenny Moore. In my opinion, at least.
15:00 left in 4th Quarter (Josh): The Nittany Lions have a 35-21 lead heading into the fourth. So here’s the point where I’m obligated to remind everyone that Penn State led Ohio State 35-20 heading into the fourth quarter. Anything can happen.
3:08 left in 3rd Quarter (Josh): The yardage comparison right now? Penn State 448, Washington 216. Saquon Barkley had a huge 92-yard TD run, but Trace McSorley has been deadly today. Been just about perfect on third down and has been a dual threat. He’s got to be the Fiesta Bowl MVP so far.
5:59 left in 3rd Quarter (Josh): Moorhead who? Rahne, McSorley, Hamilton, Barkley — they’ve all been having great games so far. Penn State leads 35-21 now after another TD catch by DaeSean. Strong catch; the defender had his arm in there, but Hamilton had the strength to keep possession.
7:50 left in 3rd Quarter (Josh): I can’t emphasize how important that third-down conversion was. McSorley and the offense have stepped up just when the Nittany Lions have needed. No matter what now, they’ll at least be in field-goal range.
9:57 left in 3rd Quarter (Josh): The first half was all Penn State but, after that TD pass from Jake Browning, the Nittany Lions’ lead is now just 28-21. Lots of game left. Chris Petersen is a good coach and has clearly adjusted. Now, can Penn State?
11:08 left in 3rd Quarter (Josh): And Washington is driving. We could have ourselves a game here. Almost feels like the Big Ten title game last year, except Penn State is playing the role of Wisconsin. I’m not saying the Huskies are going to win this — PSU has just been outplaying the competition and left the door open.
Halftime (John): With Penn State dominating the first half 28-14, here are three main takeaways from Glendale.
▪ Penn State was magnificent on third down.
The Nittany Lions were 7 of 8 on third down with 147 yards and two touchdowns on those plays.
DaeSean Hamilton’s 48-yard touchdown reception, and Saquon Barkley’s two-yard scoring run were the highlights — but McSorley did his part, too. He found tight end Mike Gesicki on a pair of long conversions (26, 17 yards).
▪ Building off that, what a debut for Ricky Rahne.
The recently-promoted offensive coordinator in his first-ever crack at calling plays has dialed up a gem. Minus a handful of shovel passes, which should be retired, Rahne’s plays have worked to perfection — from using Barkley in the slot to working Gesicki.
Rahne has utilized Tommy Stevens more, too, which is intriguing if nothing else.
▪ The Penn State pass rush came to play.
Tyrell Chavis and Kevin Givens have a sack, Ryan Buchholz has been effective and even the linebackers — namely Jason Cabinda — have provided pressure.
And that’s without defensive ends Shareef Miller and Shaka Toney, who did not play in the first half due to suspension.
We’ll see if they’re out there to start the third quarter.
4:15 left in 2nd Quarter (Josh): A Washington trick play and a Penn State fumble in its own territory have been the only signs of life Washington has shown. Still, PSU leads just 28-14 now. It’s anybody’s game — even if the Nittany Lions’ have been putting on a clinic for 90 percent of this game. PSU has 332 yards to Washington’s 123.
6:41 left in 2nd Quarter (Josh): Fumble by Penn State — and that’s the only way Penn State’s going to lose this game. If it beats itself. It’s outplaying Washington in every facet, but then it just hands the Huskies the ball near the red zone. If Washington scores here, it’s a game again.
9:01 left in 2nd Quarter (Josh): Add another one to the Saquon Barkley highlight reel. He goes 92 yards for the touchdown. And is that a Fiesta Bowl record? It’s got to be, right? (EDIT: Yes, yes, it is.) Wow. PSU 28-7. My goodness.
11:59 left in 2nd Quarter (Josh): Miles Sanders with the TD. We should probably get used to hearing that. Penn State now leads 21-7. It’s clearly the better team at this point. I don’t think anyone would argue otherwise.
12:31 left in 2nd Quarter (Josh): Really, guys? Is it really close? No. It’s not getting overturned.
14:57 left in 2nd Quarter (Josh): Penn State leads 14-7 after Washington’s short TD. Still have to credit Penn State’s defense so far. Ricky Rahne has also done a great job so far, too. I’m most curious about Rahne’s adjustments, though. If Washington fixes its defense, how does Rahne react? That’s the big question I have about Rahne, and that’s where I think PSU will miss Moorhead next season.
15:00 left in 2nd Quarter (Josh): There’s a lot to be happy about if you’re a Penn State fan so far. Washington only moved the ball due to a penalty and a trick play. Outside of that, the Nittany Lions have been dominant. The score looks as if it’s about to get a lot closer, though, as the Huskies are threatening. Washington has minus-11 rushing yards right now.
:41 left in 1st Quarter (Josh): We all knew a trick play was coming at some point. Brent Pry said he knew it. I knew it. You knew it. But you just didn’t know what it was going to be. Caught PSU off-guard, and the game that just a few seconds ago was all Penn State is now on its way to being very tight.
1:34 left in 1st Quarter (Josh): Make that Penn State 14, Washington 0. As soon as we find a video of that little touchdown twirl — ESPN referred to it as the “helicopter” — we’ll post that. Doesn’t make the top 25 of Barkley’s college highlights or anything. But it still shows how Barkley is able to tweak the “average” into something that’s not. Penn State now outgaining Washington 170-1.
6:00 left in 1st Quarter (Josh): How is that NOT a 15-yard penalty on Washington? They hit a sliding McSorley. That’s pretty much textbook. Huskies definitely got a break there, and that’s definitely going to be talked about after this. I mean, heck, you could’ve argued that could have been targeting. Instead, it’s nothing. Nothing!
7:27 left in 1st Quarter (Josh): Oh my. Penn State’s defense is absolutely dominating. Where was this against Ohio State and Michigan State? Penn State is currently outgaining Washington by a 106-1 margin. Again, great start, but not quite enough to show for it. At least not yet. PSU leading 7-0.
8:23 left in 1st Quarter (Josh): I don’t know if he got that foot down — but I can’t see them overturning it. Not conclusive. I thought that was too far overthrown to be intercepted. Really athletic play there.
9:30 left in 1st Quarter (Josh): Let’s rewind and take a look at that first TD pass, courtesy of BWI:
9:46 left in 1st Quarter (Josh): DeAndre Thompkins is explosive, but he’s got to hold on to that better. That bobbled punt return almost led to a big Washington play there. Really curious now if Penn State’s offense can keep up the momentum from its first drive. Been getting the ball out quick; just what it needs to do.
9:55 left in 1st Quarter (Josh): Trace McSorley > Jake Browning ... Open receiver there for the Huskies, but Browning overthrows him. So far, in this early part, it’s been all Penn State.
11:10 left in 1st Quarter (Josh): Well, that didn’t take long. 8 plays, 83 yards on the first drive — culminating with a 48-yard TD strike from Trace McSorley to DaeSean Hamilton. Couldn’t ask for much more of a stronger start. Big plays have been Penn State’s bread and butter, which has worked out well ... but it also means the offense has a tendency to be a little streaky. Let’s see if PSU can keep it on up.
15:00 left in 1st Quarter (Josh): And we’re underway! Penn State starts off with the ball and, while Barkley wasn’t on the kick return, he’s at least starting. It’s important here to see just how much penetration Washington gets up the middle. That could be the key to the game.
Right before kickoff (Josh): Hey everybody, I picked the short straw this year — so I’ll be live-blogging from snowy State College while McGonigal is in sunny Glendale. He’ll have the inside scoop from inside the stadium, while I get the bird’s-eye view. Some news out of the Fiesta Bowl: It looks as if Saquon Barkley will be limited more than usual today. But at least he’s still planning to play today. Have to think it’s because he’s heading to the NFL draft because I would think we’d hear about an injury otherwise.
15 Minutes Before Gametime (John): It’s become apparent that a major 2018 recruiting target is at the Fiesta Bowl. Four-star wide receiver and Arizona native Solomon Enis is here to watch the Nittany Lions face Washington. Enis — the son of Penn State great Curtis Enis — is expected to choose the Nittany Lions based on 247 Sports’ Crystal Ball predictions. Enis makes his decision between Penn State, Arizona, Arizona State and more in the new year.
30 Minutes Before Gametime (John): The Blue Band has hit the field, and those Penn State fans in attendance — most wearing white — are waving their white pom-poms in-sync. There are still plenty of empty seats as kick slowly approaches, but it’s a pro-Penn State crowd so far. It should look cool when kick gets here, though, as Washington’s fans wore all purple, starkly contrasting the Nittany Lion “White Out.”
45 Minutes Before Gametime (John): Surprisingly, Saquon Barkley did not warm up with the kick returners. Miles Sanders, Nick Scott, Brandon Polk and Koa Farmer were taking reps at the position during warmups. That’s pretty odd considering Barkley — who housed two kicks for touchdowns this season — was the Big Ten Return Specialist of the Year. He looked fine during warmups.
1 Hour Before Gametime (John): Took longer than expected, but back up in the press box from field level. I jotted down a couple notes while down there, though. First things first, Ryan Buchholz was jogging and warming up just fine. The defensive end — who was hurt on the first defensive play against Ohio State and missed several games after the fact — said earlier this week he is 100 percent and ready to go. He looked the part. Another nugget: I didn’t see Tyler Davis miss a single field goal attempt in warmups. Take that as you may.
2.5 Hours Before Gametime (John): Good afternoon from Glendale, folks. This is a really, really cool atmosphere. Is it the Rose Bowl with the Pasadena sunset? Not quite. But University of Phoenix Stadium is enormous — and when empty like it is now, it’s a sight to see. Of course, it’ll be even better once this place gets filled up for Penn State’s Fiesta Bowl matchup with Washington. Fans have flooded the parking lots and bars around the stadium. Washington is represented — but Penn State should significantly outnumber Husky fans today. Friendly reminder to stay here throughout the afternoon and evening for analysis and observations. I’ll have pregame covered, while Josh takes over from State College once the contest gets going. I’ll be heading down to the field now to take it all in before warmups begin, but I’ll be back in a bit with more updates.
Who: No. 9 Penn State vs. No. 11 Washington
Where: University of Phoenix Stadium (Glendale, Ariz.)
When: 4 p.m.
TV/Radio: ESPN/WQWK 1450
Previews: Click here