On the road in a potential “Game of the Year” candidate, No.7 Penn State (7-1, 4-1 Conf.) fell to No.3 Ohio State (7-1, 5-0 Conf.) in a hard-fought Big 10 battle, 39-38.

Star running back Saquon Barkley didn’t wait long to make his impact in this rivalry matchup. As he had done against Indiana, Barkley took the opening kickoff for a touchdown, giving the Nittany Lions a much-needed early lead.

Barkley’s breakaway speed coupled with the great special teams blocking left no chance for the Buckeyes to catch him as he went virtually untouched on his way to the end zone. This was Barkley’s second kick return touchdown of the year, tying the Penn State single-season record with Derrick Williams.

Early in the second quarter, with the Nittany Lions up 14-3, Barkley continued to fuel Penn State’s scoring, this time on the ground, breaking off a 36-yard touchdown run.

After a quarter of tough sledding on the ground against a talented Ohio State defensive line, Barkley was finally able to find some space and did what he has done time and time again, make a big play.

Barkley finished the day with a mere 44 rush yards on 2.1 yards per carry average, a season-low for the Heisman hopeful, including 36 of those yards coming on one carry.

Going up against a defensive line full of NFL prospects, there wasn’t a lot of running room for Barkley in this one, as the junior running back was constantly stuffed in the backfield due to inferior offensive line blocking.

This was not the type of performance that Barkley needed in a primetime matchup that could have all but stamped his ticket to New York, but the versatile junior will have a chance to bounce back against No.24 Michigan State this Saturday, as the Nittany Lions fight to put themselves back into the College Football Playoff discussion.

My Heisman Rankings Through Week 9

  1. Saquon Barkley RB Penn State (LW: 1): 44 rush yards, 1 TD, 4 catches, 23 yards, 1 KR TD
  2. Bryce Love RB Stanford (LW: 2): DNP
  3. JT Barrett QB Ohio St. (LW: HM): 84.6 Comp. % 328 pass yards, 4 TD, 95 rush yards
  4. Josh Adams RB Notre Dame (LW:4): 202 rush yards, TD

Honorable Mentions

Baker Mayfield QB Oklahoma (LW: 3): 64.7 Comp. %, 281 pass yards, 4 TD, 1 INT, Rush TD

Mason Rudolph QB Okla. St. (LW: NR): 58.8 Comp. %, 216 pass yards, 3 TD 1 INT, Rush TD


Final Notes:

Why is Saquon Barkley still the leading Heisman candidate despite his recent struggles running the football?

Although Barkley struggled in this game to generate productive yardage totals, his performance wasn’t indicative of the running back’s ability but more reflective of the dominance of the Ohio State front seven. Headlined by NFL caliber players, such as Nick Bosa, Sam Hubbard and Jayln Holmes, the talented Buckeyes front encountered little resistance from the Nittany Lions offensive line in stopping Barkley and the Nittany Lions repeatedly.

Even with the yardage totals not up to the standard for Barkley, the dynamic running back continued to showcase his ability to make his mark, despite defenses keying in on him and taking away space for him to put up rushing totals that mirror the top rushing yardage leaders in the NCAA. With Bryce Love’s inability to play against Oregon State and the gap Barkley created with his previous seven performances, Barkley should still hold a lead in the Heisman conversation, but the gap is as close as it has been in weeks.

Why was the DeAndre Thompkins controversial overturned touchdown the right call?

In the middle of the third quarter, with the Nittany Lions holding on to a 28-20 lead, quarterback Trace McSorley rifled a pass towards a streaking DeAndre Thompkins in the end zone. Both Thompkins and Ohio State defensive back Denzel Ward went up for the ball and came down together. The play was initially ruled an interception but after review it was overturned, resulting in a Penn State touchdown. On the replay, you could see that Thompkins had primary possession of the ball as they went down. Even considering that, calls on the field are not typically reversed when there is no clear evidence of error but if you look at two other instances where a situation similar to what had transpired in Columbus, the call followed the precedent.

During the infamous “Fail Mary Game” in 2012, Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Golden Tate and Packers free safety M.D. Jennings both caught a Hail Mary pass from Russell Wilson, but while each player had possession of the ball the referees deemed the receiver to have control and awarded the Seahawks a touchdown.

A similar controversy also took place this season in the NFL when the Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Paul Richardson and Giants Safety Landon Collins fought over a flea flicker pass in which they both came down with the ball. Despite Collins coming up with the ball, in the end the officials ruled that Richardson had possession of the ball when he crossed the plane of the end zone and called the play a touchdown.

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