STATE COLLEGE — As the second quarter began, he was more animated than usual. Which, for Marcus Allen, is saying something.
Coming off of two straight losses, the fiery Penn State safety took every opportunity to hammer Rutgers players and pump up his fellow defenders, who found themselves facing a first-quarter deficit for the first time all season.
“I was out there just trying to let out all my anger,” said Allen, who was flagged for a critical roughing the passer penalty a week ago that moved Michigan State into range for a winning field goal. “I’ve had a lot of anger built up, and I just wanted to let it all out. I wanted to play like myself.”
And help the Nittany Lions play more like one of the top teams in the country.
Allen and Penn State’s defense continued its mastery of Rutgers on Saturday, shaking off some early malaise for a quick and breezy 35-6 win at Beaver Stadium.
The Lions have now kept the Scarlet Knights out of the end zone for 14 straight quarters. Rutgers has scored just one touchdown against Penn State since joining the Big Ten — a rushing touchdown by quarterback Gary Nova back in 2014 — and recorded just 19 points in those four games, all losses.
Not that Penn State (8-2, 5-2 Big Ten) didn’t try again to give the Knights a little help at the start.
For the second straight year in the series, the Lions lost the ball on the opening kickoff. Last year, it was a Miles Sanders fumble. This time, it was a short kickoff that bounced away from Saquon Barkley, with Rutgers diving on the live ball at the Penn State 21.
The No. 14 Lions held the Knights to just a field goal there. But as familiar problems cropped up — the offense’s protection issues and the defense’s inability to bring down the quarterback — they found themselves down 6-0 early in the second as run-heavy Rutgers had gained 102 yards on its first three drives.
Over the next seven possessions? Thirty-four total yards and zero first downs.
“I think more than anything, it was how the game started, the momentum,” Lions coach James Franklin said. “They were able to get the ball with great field position, with a fluke kick, and us not doing a great job reading and fielding the kick … and it kind of went from there. I think that was probably the biggest factor in it.”
Allen wasn’t about to let it linger any longer.
“I was just trying to hype up the defense, telling everybody to run to the ball. Just play with passion,” Allen said.
“That’s the standard that we’re supposed to play. In the first half, we didn’t meet that standard, I don’t believe. That’s not us.”
Likewise, the Lions’ offense had looked out of sorts since losing left tackle Ryan Bates two weeks earlier against Ohio State.
But both Franklin and quarterback Trace McSorley didn’t believe there was any emotional letdown after going from playing two ranked teams on the road to facing Rutgers (4-6, 3-4).
“No, I didn’t think there was a hangover,” McSorley said. “We just weren’t in that groove that we can play in. They came out, starting fast, and I think the (kickoff miscue) happened and got a little shell-shocked.
“I talked to some of the guys on offense — talked to (Connor McGovern and DaeSean Hamilton) and a couple offensive linemen — and it was just, ‘Hey, we had a slow start, let’s get past that. Let’s play confident. Right now we’re kind of shell-shocked, wide-eyed. Let’s let loose.’”
McSorley got it started, taking a keeper 20 yards for a slick rushing score, then following it up with a pinpoint strike across the middle to Hamilton for a 22-yard touchdown.
Up 14-6 at halftime, Barkley added two short second-half touchdowns on an otherwise quiet day, and McSorley hit tight end Mike Gesicki for an easy 16-yard score to close it out.
With two games left in the regular season, the Lions face two more 4-6 opponents in Nebraska and Maryland. Wins there would keep them in the mix for an at-large berth into a New Year’s Six bowl game.
Not exactly what players were hoping for at the start of the season. Or after reaching No. 2 in the polls following a 7-0 start.
But onward they go.
“I visualized going undefeated, I visualized everything,” said Barkley, who wouldn’t entertain discussion about his likely jump to the NFL or skipping the bowl game. “But you can only control what you can control. We’re 8-2 right now. We hold ourselves to such a high standard that everyone thinks that it’s a bad season, a bad year. But there’s multiple teams that would beg, wish and dream to be in the position we’re in.
“… We hold ourselves to such a high standard that you look right now, we’re 8-2, top-15 team in the country and everyone’s like, ‘Ah, man — the season’s going to crap.’ But listen, it’s not. … We lost two games, but that’s all in the past.”
No. 14 Penn State 35, Rutgers 6
Rutgers`3`3`0`0 — 6
Penn State`0`14`14`7 — 35
RU — Andrew Harte 33 field goal, 12:48
RU — Harte 25 field goal, 11:16
PSU — Trace McSorley 20 run (Tyler Davis kick), 9:32
PSU — DaeSean Hamilton 22 pass from McSorley (Davis kick), 1:13
PSU — Saquon Barkley 1 run (Davis kick), 6:00
PSU — Barkley 4 run (Davis kick), 1:42
PSU — Mike Gesicki 16 pass from McSorley (Davis kick), 6:52
Time of Possession`32:37`27:23
RUSHING — RU, Giovanni Rescigno 13-57, Robert Martin 10-53, Gus Edwards 13-43, Raheem Blackshear 2-6, Jerome Washington 1-(minus 2). PSU, Trace McSorley 13-44, Saquon Barkley 14-35, Miles Sanders 2-18, Team 2-(minus 7).
PASSING — RU, Rescigno 7-20-0-43. PSU, McSorley 16-21-0-214.
RECEIVING — RU, Nakia Griffin-Stewart 2-19, Mohamed Jabbie 1-12, Dacoven Bailey 1-4, Bo Melton 1-4, Washington 1-3, Edwards 1-1. PSU, Juwan Johnson 5-78, Mike Gesicki 4-45, DaeSean Hamilton 3-47, Saeed Blacknall 2-14, Brandon Polk 1-17, Barkley 1-13.
INTERCEPTIONS — None.
MISSED FIELD GOALS — None.
A — 107,531.