Highs and Lows: Indiana

David Eckert, BWI Staff
Blue White Illustrated

PSU remained unbeaten for the season with a 45-14 win against Indiana Saturday afternoon. Check out the highs and lows from the game, here:

PLAYER OF THE GAME:

DaeSean Hamilton was the engine powering Penn State’s offense on Saturday, hauling in nine passes for 122 yards and three touchdowns. His scoring plays weren’t of an easy nature, either. He won intense battles in the end zone with Indiana defensive backs on two occasions, before catching his third touchdown of the game from Saquon Barkley. To add on to an already special day for Hamilton, the redshirt senior wideout broke Deon Butler’s record for most career receptions by a Penn State player, setting the new career mark at 181 catches.

PLAY OF THE GAME:

If it wasn’t already evident that Barkley can do pretty much anything on a football field, it is now. After tearing apart opposing defenses through the air and on the ground through the season’s first four games, Barkley caught the opening kickoff on the left side of the field and found a crease to get into open space. Once that happened, the outcome was predictable. Barkley weaved his way to the right sideline and avoided a defender who had managed to hang with him as he pranced into the end zone for the game’s first score.

BEST PASS:

The highlight of Trace McSorley’s afternoon came when he tossed a perfectly thrown ball just past the goal line of the north end zone. Despite tight coverage, Hamilton was able to secure the pass for a touchdown that put the Nittany Lions ahead with a comfortable 38-14 lead. It was the second time on the day that McSorley found Hamilton for a touchdown, and the catch brought Hamilton into a tie with Deon Butler for Penn State’s career receptions record.

WORST PASS:

With what seemed like the entire Indiana defense selling out against a potential Saquon Barkley run, McSorley had tight end Mike Gesicki wide open in the end zone. Even with a clean pocket, though, McSorley’s pass sailed far above Gesicki’s head. McSorley redeemed himself on the very nice play, though, with a nicely thrown fade route to Hamilton that went for a touchdown.

BEST RUN:

Though Barkley was largely bottled up in the running game, he still managed to contribute out of the backfield, but in an unusual way. Taking a pitch from McSorley to the right, Barkley rolled out and lobbed a pass to Hamilton, who punched it into the end zone for his third touchdown of the game.

BEST CATCH:

With defenders bearing down on him, McSorley tossed something of a desperation pass to Barkley in the flat on the right. It was off target, but Barkley snagged the ball with one hand at the apex of a jump. He then proceeded to take the pass for a 36-yard gain, making several Hoosiers miss along the way in what was a truly remarkable display of Barkley’s astonishing athleticism.

WORST DROP:

Coming across the middle of the field on the opening play of a Penn State drive that began in Indiana territory after a poor punt, DaeSean Hamilton had a Trace McSorley pass go through his hands that would have otherwise gone for a big gain. It was the only blemish on an otherwise spectacular day for the veteran wide receiver.

BEST SACK:

In a third down situation, Jason Cabinda came around the left edge practically untouched. In his attempt to avoid the sack, Indiana quarterback Richard Lagow backpedaled, but that only made things worse. Cabinda wrapped Lagow up and threw him to the ground for a sack and a loss of 10 yards and the Hoosiers were forced to punt the ball away again.

BEST HIT:

Into Penn State territory, the Hoosiers completed a pass on third-and-long to tight end Ian Thomas in the open field. Much smaller than their counterpart, Chris Campbell and Grant Haley closed with impressive speed and delivered a solid shot to Thomas, forcing him to settle for just a three yard gain.

BEST EFFORT:

A defensive unit that has emphasized turnovers all season didn’t take long to generate its first one of this game. Indiana appeared to have a significant gain on its first run of the game, but Christian Campbell kept with the play to force a fumble that Jason Cabinda recovered to give Penn State the ball at the Hoosiers’ 43-yard line. The Nittany Lions would take advantage, as Trace McSorley scored to give them a 14-point lead early in the first quarter.

BEST RECOVERY:

The Nittany Lions weren’t finished creating turnovers in the first quarter. When Indiana punt returner fielded a Blake Gillikin kick inside his own 15-yard line, Irvin Charles jarred the ball loose with a hit and Nick Scott picked it up and brought it to the house for Penn State’s second touchdown on special teams in the game’s first 9:26.

BEST INTERCEPTION:

In his return from injury, Amani Oruwariye made an impact at one of the game’s key junctures. Down 14 with the ball to begin the half, Indiana had a chance to make a game of it, but Oruwariye intercepted Indiana quarterback Peyton Ramsey at the Hoosiers’ 38-yard line and returned it 17 yards to the Indiana 21.

WORST INTERCEPTION:

With nothing open down the field on a third down play, McSorley was forced out of the pocket. He tried to find Brandon Polk on a crossing pattern, but missed his mark. The pass was intercepted by Indiana’s Jonathan Crawford, giving the Hoosiers good field position for the first time all afternoon.

BEST KICK:

Penn State was outgained in the first half despite emerging with a 28-14 lead. Its ability to force Indiana to begin drives deep in its own territory was crucial, and Blake Gillikin was the force behind it all. He averaged 47.8 yards on five punts, sending three of the them for 50 yards or more.

WORST KICK:

Tyler Davis’ struggles continued on his only field goal attempt of the game. Attempting a 21-yard chip shot from the left hash, Davis pushed the kick wide to the left. The miss was Davis’ fifth on the young season and it allowed Indiana to stay within two scores of the Nittany Lions.

BEST RETURN:

Barkley’s role as a kick returner puts him in a unique position to set the tone of the game from its very onset. He hadn’t shown much in the return game in Penn State’s previous four games, but that all changed when he took the opening kickoff of the game 98 yards for a touchdown. The play sparked a 28-point first quarter explosion that included 14 points from the special teams units and gave Penn State momentum that it would carry throughout the game.

BEST DECISION:

As the clock ran down in the first half, the Nittany Lions had the ball in their own territory. On third down, Penn State took an uncharacteristically conservative approach, handing the ball off to Saquon Barkley who failed to pick up the first down. Resisting the temptation to open up the offense try to put the game away worked out for the best for the Nittany Lions, who extended their lead to 38-14 anyway by the end of the third quarter.

WORST DECISION:

The Hoosiers had Penn State’s offense stopped on its final drive of the first quarter, but Jayme Thompson throttled Blake Gillikin into the turf after he punted the ball away. Thompson was called for roughing the kicker, giving the Nittany Lion offense new life that it would use to march down the field and extend its lead to 28-0.

MOST TELLING MOMENT:

The Nittany Lions had reached the end zone on just two of their five attempts in Iowa City a week ago, and those missed opportunities allowed the Hawkeyes to hang around. As if intent on avoiding the same result this week, Penn State kept things basic early on Saturday, running the ball on three of its four plays once it got inside Indiana’s 20-yard line for the first time. McSorley finished the drive off with a one-yard touchdown run to put the Nittany Lions up by two scores before the game was five minutes old.

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