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Running back Saquon Barkley put on a show against Washington in the Fiesta Bowl, the final game of his Penn State career.

Penn State says it made statement in Fiesta Bowl; new OC Ricky Rahne leaves impression in debut

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Statement made

So how elite is Penn State after its Fiesta Bowl win over Washington?

Some had said in the week leading up to the victory over the Huskies that Penn State needed to win the game to validate James Franklin’s tenure as head coach.

Penn State safety Marcus Allen thinks Penn State showed it is among the country’s best teams, writes Land of 10’s Sean Keeler.

From Keeler:

“I think we made a statement to everyone that we’re an elite team,” Penn State’s senior safety told Land of 10 on Saturday after the Nittany Lions held off Washington 35-28 to win the 2017 Fiesta Bowl.

“We’re supposed to be in these Jan. 1 bowls and the [College Football] Playoff. And we’re going to compete with the best, and that’s just the standard.”

Point made. Penn State brings back a plethora of talent, even though running back Saquon Barkley is bolting for the NFL draft, and brings in one of the top recruiting classes in the country.

Sharp debut

Ricky Rahne was the offensive coordinator in Penn State’s Taxslayer Bowl loss to Georgia two seasons ago, but it was an interim role.

On Saturday, Rahne’s official debut as Penn State’s offensive coordinator was a spectacular one, writes Ben Jones of StateCollege.com.

No one was happier for Rahne than former Nittany Lions offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead.

Penn State produced its best offensive showing in a bowl ever, with 545 yards in the 35-28 win over Washington.

Bowl review

Very little went wrong for Penn State in the Fiesta Bowl.

John McGonigal of the Centre Daily Times recaps the Nittany Lions performance.

The only bad? Tyler Davis’ missed field-goal attempt that would have iced the game. Instead, Penn State was forced to sweat out Chris Petersen’s bag of tricks at the end of the thrilling victory.

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Perfect ending

Linebacker Brandon Smith wanted to go out as on top as he possibly could.

How about recovering a fumble to lock up the Fiesta Bowl?

Smith couldn’t have asked for a better ending, writes the Daily Collegian’s Paddy Cotter.

From Cotter:

Smith’s career at Penn State has been a climb. After battling his way onto the team as a walk-on to earning a starting position, he was tasked with stopping Washington from stealing a win at the Fiesta Bowl. The Nittany Lions won 35-28 to improve to 11-2 on the year.

Smith’s final collegiate play was arguably Penn State’s biggest defensive play of the season. A fitting way to go out.

Head start

Trace McSorley was so good on third down in the Fiesta Bowl win, that it’s nearly impossible to compare his performance to anything else.

Because of that performance, Penn State figures to be in the playoff conversation, yet again, when the 2018 season starts, writes Mark Wogenrich of the Allentown Morning Call.

Writes Wogenrich:

Following consecutive 11-win seasons, the Fiesta Bowl launched Penn State into an intriguing future. The Lions have stockpiled significant recruiting talent but carry a number of needs into 2018.

They’re auditioning defensive tackles, linebackers, a run-stopping safety and, most likely, a new lead running back. But with McSorley as the third-year starter, Penn State has to be considered a contender in the Big Ten East.

And considering that it will be without Barkley, there is still plenty of talent in Happy Valley for the next season.

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