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June 10, 2023

The Steve Jones Show:

Penn State 1st Shutout Since 2007

By Travis Johnson – STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) — Each time Penn State’s offense drove toward Beaver Stadium’s south end on Saturday, Saquon Barkley passed 16 Penn State students in the front row whose bare chests, painted blue and white and beginning to smear from the rain, spelled out S-A-Q-U-O-N F-O-R H-E-I-S-M-A-N.

Barkley has tried to block out personal hype to keep focused on his responsibilities as a team leader. He’ll need to keep doing it, especially if he keeps playing like this.

The junior running back racked up 226 total yards and two touchdowns to lead No. 6 Penn State to a 52-0 win over Akron in the season opener.

“We have so many playmakers,” Barkley said. “Some games are going to be my game, some are going to be (quarterback) Trace (McSorley)’s game, some games it’s going to be (tight end) Mike (Gesicki) and obviously others on the offensive side of the ball.”

All of them helped Penn State’s offense pick up where it left off when the Big Ten champions won nine of their final 10 games last season.

McSorley, himself a Heisman Trophy hopeful, was 18 for 25 passing for 280 yards and two touchdowns and ran for a touchdown. Gesicki added six catches for 58 yards and two scores.

DeAndre Thompkins scored on a 61-yard punt return and backup quarterback Tommy Stevens ran for a fourth-quarter touchdown. Tyler Davis made a 47-yard field goal for the Nittany Lions, who’ve scored 35 or more points in eight straight games. That’s the longest active streak among Power 5 teams and in program history.

“Most consistent camp that we’ve had,” Penn State coach James Franklin said. “Which equates to probably the most complete game since we’ve been here.”

Although it rained heavily early in the game, a soggy field and leaky Akron defense couldn’t slow Barkley and McSorley, who combined for 371 total yards and four scores in the first half to put the game out of reach.

Barkley’s dazzling skills helped the offense recover from an early red zone interception by McSorley.

He set up Penn State’s second touchdown when McSorley targeted him with a third-and-10 pass early in the first. Barkley, running to his left, hauled in the short toss, stopped on a dime, stutter-stepped through two defenders and cut back across the field, where he eluded three more for a 17-yard gain. McSorley zipped his first touchdown pass to Gesicki two plays later to put the game out of reach thanks to a reloaded Penn State defense.

The Zips punted 11 times and quarterback Thomas Woodson was intercepted on the other drive. The Zips crossed midfield just once, needing a fourth-down stop on defense to set up favorable field position.

“I think our defense came out and played really well,” Franklin said. “I think we were dominant up front, especially inside.”

Woodson completed 12 of 23 passes for 71 yards.

(AP Photo – Chris Knight)


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