Five Quick Thoughts on Penn State's Win over Northwestern

By Nick Polak on October 7, 2017 at 3:53 pm
Shane Simmons chases down the ball carrier.

Jim Young, USA TODAY Sports

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Penn State moved to 6-0 on the season with their 31-7 win over Northwestern on Saturday. The Nittany Lions had some trouble getting the offense going early on in the windy conditions, but eventually started up the machine and cruised to an easy victory.

Here are five quick takeaways from this one.

  • This Penn State defense continues to amaze

Northwestern wasn't an impressive offensive team, but they were far from a tire fire. After all, they put up 24 points on the vaunted Wisconsin defense just a week ago. But Brent Pry's unit completely shut Clayton Thorson and company down. Until the final touchdown drive with the Penn State backups on the field, the closest the Wildcats were to scoring was when they threw a red zone interception on their opening drive.

Not only did the Nittany Lions nearly put up their third shutout of the season, but they also created three more turnovers in the process.

  • This team can move the ball on offense without giving the ball to Saquon Barkley nonstop

There's seemingly been a recent uptick in "Penn State is only good because of Barkley" chatter lately. Well, on Saturday, Trace McSorley showed that he is still more than capable of leading the offense down the field when he needs to. The Lions put together two different scoring drives of 10+ plays against the Wildcats, with McSorley's arm being the reason why. This performance should shut up some of his critics for the time being.

  • Blake Gillikin is secretly (not so secretly?) the MVP of this team

One of the keys to the success that both the Penn State offense and defense have seen is the tremendous field position each unit has benefitted from. Gillikin's punt placement has been the key to all of that. He consistently places the ball inside the five-yard line with enough arc to allow for his gunners to get underneath and make a wall in front of the end zone. He is so, so, so good.

  • The receivers are coming alive

As one would expect, with a big day from McSorley came a big day for the receiving corps. After starting the season very quietly while the Saquon Barkley show took center stage, the receivers have come alive over the past two weeks. Against Northwestern, nine different players caught passes, including Barkley, Miles Sanders, and Tommy Stevens. Three different players caught 4 or more passes. The more the ball gets spread out in this offense, the more space Barkley will eventually have. And vice versa. Pick your poison, Big Ten.

  • Woahhhhhhhh...we're halfway theeeeerrrreee

The final whistle in this one not only marked the end of the game but the end of the first half of Penn State's regular season. The Lions now sit with a 6-0 record heading into the bye week, with Michigan and Ohio State on the very immediate horizon. Those two will be by far the toughest tests the Lions will have faced thus far in 2017, but they've proven that they're a top-tier team.

Make sure to follow along with Roar Lions Roar today and every day over the next two weeks as we break down this game, and the entirety of the season's first half.

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