NO. 6 PENN STATE SHUTS OUT AKRON IN SEASON OPENER
Barkley totals 246 all-purpose yards, while defense yields just 159 yards in shutout
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – No. 6 Penn State (1-0) excelled in all three phases against Akron, totaling 569 yards of offense, earning a shutout and returning a punt for a touchdown in a 52-0 victory in the football season opener for both teams Saturday afternoon in Beaver Stadium.
Saquon Barkley led a Penn State rushing attack that totaled 247 yards with 172 markers and two touchdowns on 14 carries, and he totaled 246 all-purpose yards with the addition of 54 receiving yards and 20 kickoff return yards. Quarterback Trace McSorley threw for 280 yards and two touchdowns, both of which went to tight end Mike Gesicki, who caught a career-high six passes for 58 yards. The unit’s 569 yards of total offense were its most since recording 599 last season vs. Iowa.
Defensively, Penn State did not allow Akron (0-1) past midfield in the first half, holding the Zips to just 69 yards, while the offense gained 358 en route to a 35-0 lead at halftime. PSU’s shutout was the first in a season opener since a 59-0 win over FIU in 2007. The defense also combined for 14 tackles for loss for 36 yards for its most TFLs since tallying 15 at Temple in 2015.
The win was the 50th of Penn State head coach James Franklin’s career as head coach and 26th at Penn State.
DeAndre Thompkins set a school record with an average of 31.8 yards on four punt returns. He returned one for a 61-yard touchdown and another for 42 yards. The previous record was 31.7 yards per return by Derrick Williams vs. Temple in 2006.
Penn State scored more than 35 points for the eighth-straight game dating back to last season, a school record. It is also the longest active 35-point streak among Power 5 teams. The previous longest such streak for the Nittany Lions was seven games in 1973.
It was also the first 50-plus point performance at home since scoring 52 against Eastern Illinois.
The margin of victory was the largest since defeating Coastal Carolina 66-10 (56 points) in 2008.
With 74 receiving yards for the afternoon, DaeSean Hamilton surpassed 2,000 for his career and now has 2,059 yards to rank sixth all-time at Penn State. He also moved up fourth all-time in career receptions at Penn State, now totaling 164.
Trace McSorley surpassed 4,000 career passing yards with 280 on the afternoon and now has 4,079.
RB Saquon Barkley – Barkley totaled 246 all-purpose yards, gaining 172 on the ground on 14 carries with two touchdowns, hauling in three receptions for 54 yards and returning a kickoff 20 yards. His 80-yard run in the second quarter was the second longest of his career. Barkley turned in his 11th career 100-plus yard rushing effort and he now has 27 career rushing touchdowns to rank eighth all-time at Penn State.
QB Trace McSorley – McSorley completed 18-of-25 passes for 280 yards and two touchdowns, while rushing for 48 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries. It marked his 16th consecutive game with a touchdown dating back to the TaxSlayer Bowl after the 2015 season, extending his record. He now has 33 career touchdown passes to rank ninth in Penn State history.
TE Mike Gesicki – Gesicki enjoyed a career game, setting career highs with six receptions and two touchdowns. He totaled 58 yards.
WR Juwan Johnson – Johnson also enjoyed a career day, hauling in four passes for 84 yards.
WR/PR DeAndre Thompkins – Thompkins returned four punts for 127 yards, including a 61-yard touchdown. It was the first punt return for a touchdown for Penn State since Derek Williams returned one 63 yards at Wisconsin in 2008.
Defense – LBs Jarvis Miller and Manny Bowen and DT Tyrell Chavis led Penn State with five tackles each. Chavis made 3.0 tackles for loss to lead Penn State to 14 on the afternoon and also assisted on a sack with DT Curtis Cothran. Miller also tallied a sack, as did DE Ryan Buchholz. CB Amani Oruwariye had the lone turnover with an interception in the first quarter.
S Zach Guiser – Guiser led the Zips with 10 tackles, including eight solo and one behind the line, and he intercepted a McSorley pass in the end zone on Penn State’s opening drive.
First Quarter (Penn State 14, Akron 0)
Penn State overcame an opening drive interception to build a 14-0 lead in the first quarter, returning a punt for a touchdown and getting a pick, as well. The Nittany Lions outgained the Zips 136 yards to 26, holding a 52-yard to 4-yard advantage on the ground.
Akron received the opening kickoff, but was limited to a first down and 12 yards, and punted, giving Penn State the ball at their own 26.
McSorley totaled 32 yards rushing on three carries and connected on a pair of passes for 31 yards – finding Juwan Johnson for 16 yards and DeAndre Thompkins for 15, with the latter placing the Lions at the Akron 11. A poor snap moved Penn State back two yards, and then McSorley looked for Johnson in the end zone but was intercepted by Akron safety Zach Guiser.
The Penn State defense and special teams promptly made up for the miscue, moving the Zips back two yards and forcing a three-and-out. The Nittany Lions got tagged with a running into the kicker penalty on a punt that was downed at the 50, so Akron elected to take the five yards and re-kick. The decision proved disastrous as Thompkins returned the second punt 61 yards for a touchdown.
Akron’s ensuing drive was abbreviated by an interception by Amani Oruwariye at the Penn State 25. Saquon Barkley, touching the ball for the first time in the game, rattled off a pair of first downs on his first three carries, gaining 22 yards to the Penn State 37. After a loss of six on a pass to Barkley on the next play, McSorley found DaeSean Hamilton for 29 yards to the Akron 30.
On 3rd-and-10, Barkley danced and leapt his way to a 17-yard reception, eluding multiple tacklers before gaining the first down line. On 2nd-and-10, McSorley connected with Mike Gesicki for a 13-yard touchdown pass with 49 seconds remaining in the quarter.
Second Quarter (Penn State 35, Akron 0)
Akron’s first drive of the second quarter ended with a 42-yard punt that Thompkins returned 42 yards to the original line of scrimmage at the Akron 39. The field position did not result in any points though, as Tyler Davis pulled a 39-yard field goal wide for the first time in his collegiate career.
The Penn State defense did not let Akron past midfield on the next possession, halting the drive at the 46. The Zips forced a fair catch at the Penn State 13, but Barkley immediately flipped the poor field position with an 80-yard run, on which his heel was ruled to clip the out-of-bounds line at the Akron 7. Barkley carried the ball to the 4-yard line and then McSorley walked the ball into the end zone for a 21-0 lead.
After an Akron three-and-out, completions of 28 yards to Johnson and 35 yards to Gesicki keyed another Penn State touchdown drive. Gesicki’s catch moved the Lions to the 9, and Barkley finished the drive off with a 6-yard run followed by a 3-yard run into the end zone for a 28-0 advantage.
Relentless pressure from the Penn State defense continued and gave Penn State the ball back at the Akron 45 with 2:14 remaining in the second quarter. McSorley converted a 4th-and-2 with a 7-yard completion down the sideline to Johnson, and then Barkley broke free around the left edge for a 30-yard touchdown run.
The touchdown gave Penn State its highest scoring first half since also scoring 35 in the first half against Eastern Illinois in 2009.
Third Quarter (Penn State 45, Akron 0)
Davis was successful on his second field goal attempt of the game, drilling a career-long boot from 47 yards out with 6:01 remaining in the third quarter. A 25-yard run by Barkley from the Penn State 9 on the first play of the drive and a 33-yard reception by Johnson highlighted the scoring drive.
Penn State found the end zone again with 1:02 remaining in the third quarter, covering 58 yards on just three plays. Barkley led the drive with a 43-yard wheel route reception and Gesicki finished it with a 2-yard touchdown reception after Hamilton was interfered with in the end zone.
Fourth Quarter (Penn State 52, Akron 0)
Tommy Stevens took over at quarterback and led a five-play touchdown drive that covered 66 yards. He capped the drive himself with a 5-yard touchdown run. Stevens had career highs for completions, attempts and passing yards with three completions on six attempts for 42 yards. He also caught a pass for seven yards for his first career reception.
Both teams sent in their reserves to finish the contest out, and Akron forced the first two Penn State punts of the game.
Penn State hosts Pitt for the first time since 1999 with kickoff set for 3:30 p.m. on ABC.