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Barkley's run lifts Penn State over Minnesota 29-26 in OT

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Saquon Barkley scored on a 25-yard run on Penn State's first offensive play of overtime and the Nittany Lions beat Minnesota 29-26 on Saturday night.

In the closing minutes of the third quarter of Penn State’s 29-23 overtime win over Minnesota, Golden Gophers special teamer Jalen Waters brought the Beaver Stadium crowd of 95,332 to its feet in uproar. Just seconds after Nittany Lions quarterback Trace McSorley dived into the end zone to put Penn State ahead 20-13, Waters ran full steam at Lions kicker Joey Julius and delivered a hit to Julius’s head-area that left the kicker motionless on the ground.

“I’m not going to say a whole lot about that,” senior Evan Schwan said. “But that hit was the nail in the coffin for Minnesota.”

When the fan-favorite Julius went down, it appeared the Lions went down with him. After battling back from a horrendous first half to rip off a 20-3 run, the Gophers opened the fourth quarter with an 87-yard touchdown drive to tie the game back up at 20 apiece.

With Penn State star running back Saquon Barkley’s contributions held in check all game long, the offensive load fell on the shoulders of McSorley. McSorley, who had mainly played the role of game manager for the first four games of the season, responded with the best game of his career. Setting career highs in passing (335) and rushing yards (73), McSorley also had his first turnover-free game since week one.

“Trace McSorley just really kept his cool and made some amazing plays and gave guys chances to make plays,” James Franklin said. “This was a game that we can really grow from.”

The Lions needed all 408 of McSorley’s yards, which was the third-most total yards a Penn State player had ever tallied in a game, as Barkley had one of his toughest games yet. His total of 63 yards on 20 carries looks even worse when accounting for the fact that 48 of those yards came on two separate carries.

“I’m not a stat guy, I really don’t care about my numbers,” Barkley said. “The only thing I’m focusing on is the win… so when you’re getting tackled five yards in the backfield, you can’t get all down on yourself because you never know.”

However it was the second of those long runs that will be remembered.

After the Lions defense clamped down on the Gophers’ first overtime possession, holding Minnesota to just a field goal, Barkley took the handoff on the first play of the Lions possession and bolted up the middle of the defense, juking one defender and leaping into the end zone for the game-winning 25-yard score.

“The o-line picked up the run blitz so well and got so much movement that [the defense] split like the Red Sea,” Barkley said. “When I got through, I found the safety and I was going to the left… and I was fortunate enough to make a move and get in the end zone.”

The defensive sequence to set up Barkley’s game winning score was one of the finest set of plays the unit has played this year, especially considering the circumstances.

After allowing both Minnesota running backs, Rodney Smith and Shannon Brooks, to crack 100 yards rushing, Manny Bowen and Marcus Allen teamed up to stuff Smith at the line of scrimmage on the first play. The tackle was Allen’s 22nd of the game, just two short of the Penn State record.

“Marcus Allen had 22 tackles in a game,” Franklin said after the game. “I don’t know if I’ve ever heard of that before.”

The next play, Schwan got to Gophers quarterback Mitch Leidner for the Lions’ second sack of the day. Going into the game, Minnesota had only allowed two sacks all season.

But despite allowing just 26 points, their second fewest of the season, the story of the day for Franklin’s defense was once again injuries. Brandon Smith, who was returning from a targeting disqualification, left the game in the second half shortly before losing Curtis Cothran to a targeting ejection.

“Our defense is under unusual circumstances, I’ve never seen this before,” Franklin said. “We’ve got seven different linebackers that are out, seven… Manny Bowen has never played a play of Mike linebacker ever and he goes in the game and played really well.”

Ultimately, the defense, despite allowing 469 yards, stepped up to make crucial plays in crucial spots to give the offense the chances they needed.

“I’m really proud of our team because they never stopped believing,” Franklin said.

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