Indiana coach prepares for Penn State, praises Barkley, McSorley

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Penn State quarterback Trace McSorley (9) hands off to running back Saquon Barkley during action against Pitt on Saturday, Sept. 9, 2017, at Beaver Stadium in University Park, Pa. Penn State won, 33-14.

The background of Indiana head coach Tom Allen is on the defensive side of the football, so it’s easy to see why he is preoccupied with fourth-ranked Penn State’s explosive offense in general, and Trace McSorley and Saquon Barkley in particular.

“There’s not a quarterback/tailback combination in the country right now that’s playing at a higher level,” Allen said Monday at his weekly news conference.

“They are doing a great, great job. They are dangerous and confident. [Barkley] is making runs that are impressive and he can catch the ball out of the backfield. The quarterback … man, McSorley is just special. He’s just got that moxie that you want in a quarterback and that core confidence and that belief.”

Allen, a former defensive coordinator at South Florida and Indiana, who is in his first full season as head coach of the Hoosiers (2-1, 0-1), will see Barkley, McSorley and the Nittany Lions (4-0, 1-0) in a Big Ten matchup Saturday at Beaver Stadium.

Barkley was named Big Ten offensive player of the week on Monday after rolling up a program-record 358 all-purpose yards and a career-high 211 yards rushing, along with 12 receptions, another personal best. He is first in the Big Ten with 23 catches and 335 receiving yards, and is second in rushing with 518 yards, two behind leader J.K. Dobbins of Ohio State.

McSorley passed for 284 yards against Iowa, including the 7-yard touchdown pass to Juwan Johnson on the game’s final play, which gave the Lions a 21-19 win over the Hawkeyes in Iowa City.

“The logical thing is, you’ve got to find out what they do really well and you’ve got to find a way to take it away,” Allen said. “You’ve got to make them beat you with things that are not their strength. If they can beat you with the things that are not their strength, then they’re probably just better than you.

“But we’ve got to put together, we’re in the process of putting together a great plan for our team in all three phases. That’s our responsibility, that’s the players’ responsibility, to execute that scheme with fanatical effort.”

The Hoosiers gave up 596 yards and 49 points in a 28-point home loss to Ohio State in the season opener, but lowered that point yield to 17 in each of the next two games, victories over Virginia and Georgia Southern.

“That’s our goal, [allowing] 17 or less,” Allen said. “That’s hard to do in today’s game. Obviously, the first game number was big so it offsets the average. So you’ve got to kind of see it big picture-wise. I feel like we’re doing a lot of really good things.”

Allen said his team is excited about playing Penn State.

“They’re playing at a very high level,” he said. “Impressive win at Iowa. I think we were all watching that game and just impressed to see how they finished. So a lot of respect for them, a tremendous challenge for our program, and a tremendous opportunity as well.”