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Penn State Football: Nittany Lions Enter Final Stretch With 35-6 Victory Over Rutgers

by on November 11, 2017 4:20 PM

In reality the only surprise would have been if Penn State hadn't won 29 or more.

And for at least 30 minutes that seemed like a distinct possibility. The wind catching the opening kickoff and turning a ploy to avoid Saquon Barkley into a long onside kick as Rutgers recovered the opening kickoff for the second straight year. 

But the Scarlet Knights, for all of their improved abilities, and three victories in four games didn't have nearly enough offensive firepower, confidence or ability to do much in the way of threaten Penn State's defense. In turn, even as the Nittany Lions continued to struggle to run the ball and play an anemic first half, Trace McSorley's 20-yard scamper and score was enough to give Penn State a 7-6 lead.

And then eight minutes later a 22-yard pass to DaeSean Hamilton capped off a seven-play, 74-yard drive that looked the part of the nation's No.14 ranked team.

By then the stats didn't really matter. Penn State was only going to lose if Rutgers took advantage of every break and the Nittany Lions failed to exit the locker room for the second half. One team was an improved version of itself, the other a collection of veterans who even on their worst days could put together a formidable showing against Rutgers.

That proved to be true in the third quarter as Barkley punched in touchdown runs of one and four yards, opening a gap on the scoreboard that was already evident on the field. A 16-yard pass to a wide open Mike Gesicki gave the game its final 35-6 score and Penn State's 13th straight inside the friendly walls of Beaver Stadium.

To be sure the Nittany Lions were far from perfect, Barkley managed just 35 yards on the ground over the course of 14 carries and Penn State's offensive front did little in the way of showing the strides forward fans have hoped to see, even without the injured Ryan Bates.

But as the Nittany Lions left the field in just under three hours, a blistering pace following a rain delayed marathon the week prior, it became evident that Penn State's issues may not really matter anymore. The Nittany Lions will face a Nebraska team that was just imploded by Minnesota and a Maryland squad an injury away from taking fans out of the stands. Even on a bad day Penn State ought to have the horses to limp across the finish line at 10-2. From there nearly a month to heal before a bowl game.

And then 2018-19, a year where the roster and potentially coaching staff, will look vastly different. The next three games a farewell tour for a team that has done more than enough to etch its own place in the program's history. A 2016 on the side of Beaver Stadium already assuring them of that fact.

So yes, the Nittany Lions were far from perfect, and may never fully overcome their own issues, but another blowout victory later it may not really matter.

Ben Jones covers Penn State football and basketball for He's on Twitter as @Ben_Jones88.
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