STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — Up until Saquon Barkley ripped off a game-winning, 25-yard touchdown run through the middle of Minnesota’s defense in Penn State’s 29-26 overtime win over the Golden Gophers, Barkley had been bottled up, driven backward for losses and frustrated.
"I’m really proud of Saquon," Penn State coach James Franklin said. "He’s not having the big games and statistics that I think people anticipated or expected, you haven’t seen him once with bad body language, hang his head, been a great team player. Just kept persevering, waiting for opportunities, and when it came, made a big play for us."
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Barkley’s dazzling run came at a critical time for Penn State (3-2, 1-1 Big Ten). The Nittany Lions, already down seven injured starters, risked a 0-2 conference start amidst growing fan frustration that prompted athletic director Sandy Barbour to declare earlier in the week Franklin’s job is not in jeopardy.
Trace McSorley’s 80-yard touchdown pass to Irvin Charles was timely, too. It snapped a 0 for 8 string of third-down attempts for Penn State’s offense and sparked the team’s comeback from a 13-3 deficit. McSorley finished with 408 yards of total offense, the third highest single-game total in school history.
McSorley completed 19 of 40 passes and ran for a touchdown. Barkley finished with 63 yards on 20 carries.
Mitch Leidner completed 24 of 40 passes for 241 yards with a touchdown, and Rodney Smith and Shannon Brooks added 104 and 100 rushing yards, respectively, for Minnesota (3-1, 0-1 Big Ten). Brooks and Drew Wolitarsky scored touchdowns for the Gophers.
"It’s pretty obvious it hurts," Minnesota coach Tracy Claeys said. "We’ll be up in the morning and we’ll be back and ready to go."
Emmit Carpenter kicked four field goals for Minnesota, including a go-ahead 37-yarder with 54 seconds to go. But Tyler Davis’ third field goal, a 40-yarder with two seconds left, forced overtime. Carpenter’s 46-yarder put Minnesota up after the first half of overtime before Barkley ended it on the next play.
"I think it was definitely something our players needed," Franklin said. "Everyone needed it, there’s no doubt about it."
LAST LINE OF DEFENSE
Marcus Allen looked no worse for wear after making 22 tackles — eight solo — while playing most of his snaps as Penn State’s eighth defender in the box.
It was two shy of Penn State’s single-game record.
He’s grown used to helping support what’s been a thin corps of linebackers since his freshman season in 2014 and it’s as thin as it’s ever been with starters Nyeem Wartman-White, Jason Cabinda and Brandon Bell out. Penn State lost fill-in Brandon Smith in the second half with an apparent head injury.
MINNESOTA: The Gophers are a scrappy bunch and will have a shot to hang with a lot of Big Ten teams with Leidner and their running backs playing well.
Leidner bounced back from a shaky start where he was 0 for 4 against the blitz to complete his next five passes for 35 yards and a touchdown against extra-man pressures. He erred in the fourth quarter, However. Leidner steered his team to Penn State’s 13-yard-line where he sailed a pass into 8-man coverage to be intercepted by Jordan Smith.
PENN STATE: After falling into a 13-3 halftime hole and going 0 for 7 on third downs over the first two quarters, Penn State salvaged some momentum with a win. More importantly, Joe Moorhead and the offense got on track with big plays in the third quarter where Penn State racked up 190 yards of offense with 156 of them coming on deep passes against Minnesota’s shorthanded secondary.
MINNESOTA: Will try to take the Floyd of Rosedale back from the Iowa Hawkeyes at TCF Bank Stadium on Oct. 8.
PENN STATE: Hosts Maryland on Oct. 8 in what’s become arguably each team’s biggest rivalry.