BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (AP) — Saquon Barkley scrapped for every yard through the first three quarters. For once, he looked ordinary.
Penn State coach James Franklin decided to stick with the game plan, and eventually it paid off.
Barkley ran for two go-ahead scores in the fourth, helping No. 12 Penn State beat Indiana 45-31 on Saturday.
“What you can’t do when you’re struggling in the run game is abort it, especially with a young offensive line,” Franklin said. “It was a gutsy, gutsy win on the road.”
Powered by a fantastic finish for Barkley, who was the Big Ten’s only 1,000-yard rusher at the beginning of the day. He had just 20 yards on his first 20 carries, but gained 40 in the final period to lead the Nittany Lions (8-2, 6-1, No. 10 CFP) to their sixth straight win.
Barkley managed to have an impact even when he wasn’t running with the ball.
Barkley’s first TD was set up by a 54-yard completion on a flea flicker when he served as the decoy, flipping the ball back to quarterback Trace McSorley. The Hoosiers (5-5, 3-4) bit hard on the play and a few moments later, Barkley walked in for a 4-yard TD run that lifted Penn State to a 28-24 lead.
“I thought our defense battled,” Indiana coach Kevin Wilson said. “Great job, great job on Barkley but because you’ve got a great back there, your guys have got to be on an island one-on-one.”
After Indiana regained the lead on Richard Lagow’s 40-yard touchdown pass to Nick Westbrook, Barkley ran over a defender for a 2-yard score with 3:58 left. Penn State sealed the victory with a 9-yard fumble return for a TD with 29 seconds to go.
Barkley finished with 60 yards on 33 carries. McSorley was 16 of 30 for 332 yards with two TD passes and two interceptions.
Indiana had won its previous two games. Lagow was 23 of 40 for 292 yards and two TDs, and Devine Redding ran 23 times for 108 yards and two scores.
Penn State: The Nittany Lions maintained their long-shot division hopes, but still need help. They dropped their conference opener to the unbeaten Wolverines.
Indiana: The Hoosiers blew a golden opportunity for a signature win. It would have been Indiana’s second Top 25 victory this season and secured bowl eligibility with two games to play. Next up is Michigan in Ann Arbor before finishing with rival Purdue in the regular-season finale.
Indiana lost five fumbles, four in the first half. Penn State made it 14-7 after recovering a muffed punt at Indiana’s 6-yard line. Penn State committed two turnovers, and the Hoosiers scored their second touchdown with one minute left in the first half after picking off McSorley.
Penn State’s already depleted offensive line took another hit when left tackle Paris Palmer left in the first quarter with an undisclosed injury. Cornerback Jordan Smith was sent off by the refs after the first play of the fourth quarter to enter the concussion protocol.
Penn State: The Nittany Lions could become the sixth Big Ten team to crack the top 10 this season.
Indiana: The Hoosiers haven’t been ranked in the Top 25 since 1994 — and this loss won’t help them end the longest current drought for a power-five school.
Penn State: Things should get easier next weekend when the Nittany Lions visit Rutgers, the last Big Ten team winless in conference play.
Indiana: After playing four ranked teams in their last seven games, the Hoosiers face an even more daunting task next weekend. Michigan has won the last 20 in the series.