No. 4 Penn State is cruising, but challenges await; Saquon Barkley continues to amaze

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The road ahead

Following its 45-14 victory against Indiana on Saturday, Penn State is 5-0 for the first time since 2008. The Nittany Lions remain No. 4 in both major polls, as noted by, among others.

Paul Myerberg of USA Today writes there are concerns, however, notably along the offensive line. The Nittany Lions managed just 39 rushing yards on 37 attempts against the hyper-aggressive Hoosiers, which coach James Franklin mentioned after the game as something that needs to be cleaned up — along with the field goal unit.

Kicker Tyler Davis, who this year is working with a new snapper (Kyle Vasey) and a largely new holder (Billy Fessler), missed a 21-yard attempt against Indiana, then made a 45-yard try, then had a 42-yard attempt blocked. After going 30 for 32 his first season-plus (with both misses blocks), he is 5 for 11 this year.

Either of those flaws could come back to bite the Nittany Lions at some point. They are 14.5-point favorites this Saturday at Northwestern, as Greg Pickel of reports, but on Oct. 21 begin a season-defining three-game stretch that sees them host Michigan, visit Ohio State and travel to Michigan State.

This just in: Saquon Barkley’s still good

Saquon Barkley remains the Heisman Trophy favorite according to the Las Vegas Superbook; his odds of winning that award, former ESPN college football reporter Brett McMurphy tweeted, are 7-4. On Saturday Barkley returned the opening kickoff 98 yards for a touchdown, turned a simple swing pass into a one-handed masterpiece (and 36-yard gain) and threw a 16-yard TD pass on his way to generating 205 all-purpose yards. (Mike Poorman of tweeted that Barkley remains the FBS leader in that category, at 243.6 yards per game.) As safety Marcus Allen told Josh Moyer of the Centre Daily Times, Barkley is always doing “something that the average human can’t do.” For what it’s worth, he was also a “chill” babysitter in his younger years, according to a report by Mark Wogenrich of The (Allentown) Morning Call.

They shall not pass

Andrew Callahan of Lions247 reports that PSU is quietly developing an impregnable pass defense. The Nittany Lions, who according to Callahan rely on deception and aggression, have not allowed an opponent to throw for 200 yards to date this season. Foes are also completing less than 54 percent of their attempts, he writes, for an average of just 5.4 yards per dropback. In addition the Nittany Lions have 7 interceptions, all by defensive backs. In 2016 the secondary finished with 6.

Field hockey team rallies to win

As noted on the university’s website, Moira Putsch had 2 goals and 2 assists as Penn State’s fourth-ranked field hockey team erased a 2-0 deficit and beat Kent State 5-3 on Sunday afternoon. Katie Dembrowski added a goal and an assist for the Nittany Lions (10-2).

Hockey team drops exhibition

Also on the Penn State website, a report on the 10th-ranked men’s ice hockey team’s 4-3 overtime loss to the University of Ottawa in an exhibition Sunday. Quinn O’Brien netted the game winner 1 minute, 23 seconds into the extra period for Ottawa. Cole Hults had a goal and an assist for Penn State, which opens its season Friday at Clarkson.

Praise for Hamilton (the player, not the play)

As noted by (among others), DaeSean Hamilton became Penn State’s all-time leading receiver amid a 9-catch, 122-yard, 3-touchdown explosion against Indiana, and that seemed to hearten everyone. “No guy deserves it more than him,” quarterback Trace McSorley said, according to FOS. Among those tweeting their congratulations to Hamilton were all-time great receivers O.J. McDuffie, Allen Robinson and Chris Godwin (Hamilton’s teammate the previous three seasons); former teammates Geno Lewis and Tyler Yazujian; and current teammates Jason Cabinda, Tommy Stevens, Juwan Johnson and Irvin Charles.

The full picture

Waiss David Aramesh of tweeted out some panoramic video of the scene in Beaver Stadium on Saturday, from the Penn State players’ arrival to Barkley’s kickoff return.

Also in the Land of 10

Miss previous editions of the Wake Up Call? They can be found here.

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