STATE COLLEGE, Pa. – Penn State’s one-two offensive punch of running back Saquon Barkley and quarterback Trace McSorley thrilled a large Beaver Stadium crowd once again Saturday night.
Barkley accounted for 226 all-purpose yards in just over one half of action, including an 85-yard catch-and-run with a short McSorley pass for a touchdown. McSorley passed for 309 yards, including a program-record 258 in the first half, while throwing for four TDs and running for one.
Those performances, combined with the Nittany Lions’ claiming five turnovers, helped propel the fifth-ranked Lions to a 56-0 victory over Georgia State before a crowd of 102,746 on a gorgeous night in Happy Valley.
The Lions finished their regular-season non-conference schedule with a 3-0 record and outscored their opponents 141-14 while allowing just one touchdown and recording two shutouts. They begin their Big Ten schedule next week at Iowa.
Barkley, the 230-pound junior and Heisman Trophy candidate, rushed for only 47 yards on 10 carries, but he accounted for 142 yards on four receptions, including the touchdown catch late in the first quarter when he grabbed the ball just past his own 25 and outran three defenders to the end zone.
“I knew it was tight down the sideline and I thought he was going to get pushed out,” McSorley said. “I actually looked up at the Jumbotron because I couldn’t see it and I saw him kind of skirt by the guys and get down the sideline and I started sprinting toward the end zone.”
Barkley added a 44-yard reception and a 33-yard run in the second quarter, and left the game early in the third.
“Saquon, he’s just got so many tools,” head coach James Franklin said. “You talk about a 230-pound guy that can make you miss, can run you over, and can burst up the sideline. I can’t imagine there’s a more dangerous player in open space than him.”
McSorley completed 14 of 19 passes for a program-record 258 yards in the first half and finished 18 of 23 for 309 yards. In addition to the TD throw to Barkley, he also had touchdown passes of 10 yards to backup quarterback Tommy Stevens, 27 yards to DaeSean Hamilton, and 15 yards to Brandon Polk.
Miles Sanders, helped by a block from McSorley, scored on a 29-yard run in the second quarter to contribute to the 35-0 halftime lead. Stevens fired a 35-yard scoring strike to Saeed Blacknall in the third quarter and Andre Robinson raced 41 yards for the Lions’ final TD in the fourth quarter.
The Nittany Lions finished with 526 yards of total offense.
The defense gave up 320 total yards to the Panthers (0-2) and forced five turnovers – interceptions by Grant Haley, Marcus Allen, and Tariq Castro-Fields, and two fumbles. All five turnovers led to Penn State touchdowns. For Allen, a senior and anchor of the secondary, it was his first career pick.
“The turnovers were huge today,” Franklin said. “Whenever you get five turnovers and don’t turn the ball over on offense, that’s a recipe for success.
“Defensively, the most important thing is we’re keeping people out of the end zone. We’ve done that for three weeks, not giving up big plays on defense and keeping people out of the end zone.”
The Lions scored on their first, third, fourth, sixth, and seventh possessions of the first half to roll to a 35-0 lead at the break while accounting for 358 total yards.