Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Offensive Line Gets Sacked Franklin Disappointed with Play, Seeks Solution after Ohio State Exposed Weakness

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Offensive Line Gets Sacked Franklin Disappointed with Play, Seeks Solution after Ohio State Exposed Weakness

Article excerpt

Saquon Barkley had 21 carries in Penn State's 39-38 loss Saturday at Ohio State.

He lost ground on nine of them.

That means Penn State moved in the wrong direction nearly half of the time Barkley, a leading contender for the Heisman Trophy, was handed the ball.

That's a credit to the Buckeyes defense, anchored by what might be college's football's finest line, but also the latest indictment of the Nittany Lions offensive line.

When a guy many regard as the top running back, if not player, in Football Bowl Subdivision is consistently being hit in the backfield, it's an issue.

"We have to improve in the run game," Penn State coach James Franklin said. "I think the biggest thing, really, is eliminating the negative-yardage plays."

The No. 7 Nittany Lions (7-1, 4-1 Big Ten) enter their game at noon Saturday at Michigan State averaging 148.8 rushing yards in five conference games, placing them fifth in the conference.

They are averaging 275 passing yards, No. 3 in the conference, and are second in overall offense, with 423.8 yards per game.

Pass-blocking has been a recurring problem, too. Even though Trace McSorley is a mobile and elusive quarterback, Penn State has allowed a conference-high 18 sacks in its five Big Ten games to date.

The Nittany Lions have given up 70 tackles for loss in their eight games so far; that's 14 more than Michigan, which has yielded the second most among conference teams.

Although Franklin didn't absolve Barkley of responsibility for some of those negative yardage plays - he made a reference to "not trying to turn every run into an 80-yard run, [and settling for] only getting 2 yards" - Penn State's offensive line routinely was overwhelmed by the Buckeyes.

"When we tried to run the ball, we weren't successful," Franklin said. "When we tried to throw the ball, Trace was running for his life. …

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