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Penn State runs past reeling Rutgers 28-3

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Akeel Lynch and Saquon Barkley combined to rush for 315 yards and three touchdowns and Penn State took advantage of a reeling Rutgers program with a 28-3 win in Happy Valley Saturday night.

The rhythmic beat stemming from the more than 103,000 fans that tailgated all day for an 8 p.m. kickoff neglected to transcend from the stands and onto the field until early in the second quarter, as the game got off to a slow start during the first. Both the Lions and the Scarlet Knights appeared to be taking plays step by step and working their way down the field, instead of looking for gaps in hopes of a sudden breakaway.

The first quarter ended scoreless.

“We have a lot of things we can still clean up,” coach James Franklin said. “I thought early on in the game we hurt ourselves with penalties. I think our New Jersey guys were a little juiced up. Once they settled down, they were good.”

The first team to hit the paint came three minutes into the second quarter, when Penn State’s DaeSean Hamilton made a stunning jumping catch from quarterback Christian Hackenburg at the Rutgers’ 10 yard line. It was then DeAndre Thompkins who completed the Lions’ drive by running the ball into the endzone for Penn State’s first touchdown of the game.

It was Penn State’s longest drive of the season with 12 plays for 80 yards.

From there, the game took off.

The Knights, playing without head coach Kyle Flood, who was suspended for three games for his role in an ongoing academic investigation, have been rocked by scandal in recent weeks. The issues seemed to have carried over onto the field.

Knights’ quarterback Chris Laviano received a thrashing from the Lion’s defensive line -- and Penn State’s student section. Immediately following the Lions’ scoring play, Laviano threw back-to-back incomplete passes as Rutgers continued to struggle to move the ball.

Penn State took a 14-0 lead on freshman running back Saquon Barkley’s 15-run, a score that capped an eight-play, 90-yard drive. The drive started with a 48-yard pass from Hackenberg to Hamilton.

After an interception by linebacker Grant Haley, running back Akeel Lynch put the capper on the first half with a 75-yard scoring run and the Lions took a 21-0 lead into halftime.

At the end of the first half, Penn State had run for a net total of 311 yards against Rutgers’ 115.

Kyle Federico kicked a 34-yard field goal to get Rutgers on the board, but Barkley’s 54-yard run in the fourth quarter set up the Nittany Lions’ final touchdown, a 16-yard touchdown by Barkley to give Penn State the 28-3 advantage.

Barkley ran for 195 yards and a pair of scores on the day.

“We all knew Saquan was special back at camp,” DaeSean Hamilton said of his teammate. “We already knew he was going to be a big factor for us. He was consistent and brought a new change of pace.”

Junior punter Chris Gulla earned the game ball from Franklin for downing all five of his punts inside the 20 yard line, with three of them landing at or inside the 10. Gulla averaged 41 yard punts and kept the Knights at a safe distance for the Penn State defense.

“The last three Friday’s, I’m sitting in my office on Friday morning, and I see a ball flying through the air,” Franklin said of Gulla. “And he’s out there on his own punting on the field. It’s just an example of a guy that kept preparing, waiting for his number to be called.”

Lynch added 120 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries, making it the first time since 2010 that two running backs rushed for more than 100 yards in a single game.

“Those two guys are great running backs, they’re an offensive line’s dream,” junior Brendan Mahon said of Barkley and Lynch.

With the offensive line’s strong outing, this was the first time PSU has rushed for over 200 yards in back-to-back games since 2009.

“I take it upon myself to know every call, know what to do,” Barkley said. “Our team can be in the best position out there and I definitely take that upon myself.”

The players appreciated the electric atmosphere.

“We love it here,” senior linebacker Brandon Bell said. “Not just here, but we always talk about playing football, you only get so many opportunities, 12-15 [games] maybe a year so we try to have fun every time.”

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