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Barkley delivers in the clutch
Penn State running back Saquon Barkley had five carries for minus-12 yards in the second half of Saturday’s game against Minnesota, but with the Nittany Lions trailing in overtime, there was little question about where the ball was going to go. And Barkley delivered, sprinting 25 yards for the decisive touchdown in a 29-26 Penn State victory.
As he put it afterward:
“It’s like a dream. It’s something I visualized when I was a recruit, scoring a touchdown to win a game for the team. I was fortunate enough, I was blessed enough, to be able to get in the end zone. It was one of the greatest feelings I’ve ever had in my life.”
Barkley’s touchdown came on PSU’s first and only play of overtime, after Emmit Carpenter gave the Gophers a 26-23 lead with a field goal. And it came on a read-option, on which quarterback Trace McSorley started left, freezing defensive end Gaelin Elmore in his tracks. Left tackle Brendan Mahon and left guard Ryan Bates pushed their men in the opposite direction, opening a crease.
Barkley took the handoff, and 10 yards downfield he encountered safety Adekunle Ayinde.
“As a running back,” Barkley said, “you’ve got to make that guy miss.”
And he did, cutting sharply to his right and then high-stepping into the end zone.
Barkley finished with just 63 yards on 20 carries, but has the undying respect of Penn State coach James Franklin:
“He’s handled adversity, and you’ve never seen bad body language from him, ever. He’s not having the big games and stats that I think people anticipated and expected, but he’s being a great team player and he just keeps persevering and waiting for his opportunities.
“And when it came, he made a big play for us, and that’s what happens when you keep a great attitude and keep being a great teammate.”
Penn State safety Marcus Allen was credited with 22 tackles against the Gophers, the most by a Penn State player since Paul Posluszny put up the same number against Northwestern in 2005.
He told reporters after the game he was motivated by the fact that his roommate, cornerback Christian Campbell, left the game in the first quarter with an apparent ankle injury, not to mention the scrutiny facing Franklin and the fact that offensive line coach Matt Limegrover was squaring off with the coach who fired him, Minnesota boss Tracy Claeys.
Also, Allen said:
“I do this for my family and for my grandmother and grandfather who just passed. It’s a lot of passion that goes into these games. If I show it too much on the field I apologize, but that’s where it comes from.”
Allen is a Maryland native, but spoke earlier this season about traveling to Pittsburgh for his grandparents’ funerals. His father, Shawn, is a native of that city, and befriended Curtis Martin, later a star running back at Pitt and in the NFL, at a young age. Martin became Marcus’ godfather, someone who “just gave me words of wisdom” and taught him “how to carry (himself), on and off the field,” as Allen said in September.
He said something else then, too:
“I want to be the best safety in the Big Ten … not even in the Big Ten, just the NCAA all around.”
He took a step in that direction Saturday.
Redemption for Limegrover
When Penn State offensive line coach Matt Limegrover arrived in his office Sunday, this was sitting on his desk:
— Coach Limegrover (@CLimegrover) October 2, 2016
Several players besides Allen had mentioned after the game that they were motivated to win by Limegrover’s firing last November.
First, there was tight end Mike Gesicki:
“We made it known early in the week that when we win that trophy, it’s going to Coach Limegrover. I don’t know the situation that happened there and all that stuff, but us hiring Coach Limegrover was a huge hire. He has helped out our offensive line tremendously, he has helped out our offense tremendously. He’s a great guy to play for. For them to let him go, that was awesome for us because he is one of the best O-Line coaches in the country, and he deserves that trophy more than anybody.”
And there was this, from guard Ryan Bates:
“Coach Limegrover was at Minnesota for a number of years … and the people he was with for that amount of time just gave up on him and I don’t see why. Coach Limegrover is a great coach. What he’s doing with the offensive line is awesome. The connections we have with Coach Limegrover … I’m looking forward to the future.”
Feat of Claeys
Minnesota coach Tracy Claeys, however, was no less incensed than Penn State’s players, coaches and fans were after Minnesota backup linebacker Jaylen Waters leveled kicker Joey Julius with a third-quarter cheap shot, which earned Waters an ejection.
As Claeys told reporters:
“I care about protecting the game, and I don’t believe in that crap. But I will take care of it, so anybody who thinks we coach that does not know us. This is a great game. It’s helped a hell of a lot of people. You’re also dealing with kids that are doing things, and there are consequences for decisions.”
Julius earned cult-hero status after taking down kickoff returners in earlier games against Kent State and Michigan, and Andy Greder of the Twin Cities Pioneer-Press reported that after a prior kickoff, Waters knocked Julius down and pinned him to the ground.
But Waters clearly went too far in the third quarter. Franklin said in his postgame presser that Claeys told him much the same thing the Gophers boss would later tell reporters – that he would deal with it.
And, Franklin added:
“I think that because Joey Julius has been such a factor in getting down and making tackles that people are treating him differently. I think that’s a credit to Joey and his toughness. I do think that play fired everybody up.”
Pennlive.com photojournalist Joe Hermitt had a frame-by-frame look of Barkley’s game-winning run:
— Joe Hermitt (@JoeHermitt) October 2, 2016