No. 10 Penn State did not play its best game of the season on Saturday. Despite big numbers, neither did quarterback Trace McSorley. Running back Saquon Barkley had maybe the worst game of his career in blue and white.
But the Nittany Lions rallied to beat Indiana, 45-31, at Memorial Stadium in Bloomington, Ind., improving to 8-2 with games against Rutgers and Michigan State left. They scored 17 points in the final four minutes.
“We gotta stick with it. We made more plays in the second half,” Penn State coach James Franklin said on ABC after the game. “We didn’t panic. We stuck with the plan. These kids believe in themselves, and it’s awesome to see.”
Penn State has now won six straight Big Ten games for the first time since 1994 and likely controls its own destiny to a New Year’s Six Bowl.
“You look at our wins, every win is different,” Franklin said in his postgame press conference. “When you have a young team, that is an important trait.”
Barkley ran for just 60 yards on 33 carries but scored the go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter.
McSorley, bothered by an ankle injury, threw for 332 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions on 16 of 30 passing. But he was clearly limited on the ground.
Indiana turned the ball over four times in the first half, but Penn State couldn’t capitalize and entered the locker room tied, 14-14. The Hoosiers took a 24-14 lead in the third quarter, but the Nittany Lions answered with a 21-yard score from McSorley to Chris Godwin and a Barkley touchdown run. Indiana answered with a 40-yard score.
The Nittany Lions even covered as a seven-point favorite after Torrence Brown returned a Richard Lagow fumble, forced by Brandon Bell, for a touchdown with 23 seconds left.
BRANDON BELL. TORRENCE BROWN. BALLGAME. pic.twitter.com/qPrDAyUfvw
— Roar Lions Roar (@RLRblog) November 12, 2016
Indiana actually had the more impressive boxscore, minus the turnovers. The Hoosiers outgained Penn State, 454-411, and had more first downs by a 20-18 count. They converted eight of 17 third-down attempts compared to the Nittany Lions’ four conversions on 14 attempts.