It was Senior Day at Penn State this weekend. Many notable players walked across the field for the last time. Jason Cabinda, Marcus Allen, DaeSean Hamilton, Mike Gesicki and possibly star running back Saquon Barkley played their last game in Beaver Stadium.
Senior Day at Penn State
The game was played in cold, wet conditions in front of fans that have watched them all grow and mature over the last three to five years. Before getting into the individual performances of the seniors, let’s do a recap of a dominating offensive performance over Nebraska.
The Nittany Lion Offense Dominates Nebraska
Penn State beat Nebraska 56-44 on Saturday on Senior Day. The score looks as though it was a close contest, but it really was not. The Nittany Lions went into halftime leading the Cornhuskers 42-10. This performance made the first string unnecessary for the majority of the second half. Nebraska’s 10 first half points came off of mistakes by the Penn State special teams. A touched ball on a kick-return and a fumble gave the Cornhuskers short field position on back-to-back drives. Quarterback Trace McSorley threw for three touchdowns on 325 yards and rushed for one more. Furthermore, wide receiver Juwan Johnson got his first 100-yard game with five receptions for 105 yards.
Nebraska ended the game with 44 points on Saturday, but the Nittany Lion defense held strong and dominated the majority of the contest. The Cornhuskers amassed only 81 total yards from scrimmage in the first half. When the starters were in the game, the Nittany Lions dominated. When the young secondary entered Nebraska started to get some momentum and the true and redshirt freshmen could not keep up. The game was already put away, so while the score looks close, Nebraska never really had a chance.
Senior Day at Penn State: Individual Performances
Jason Cabinda has been a solid linebacker for the Nittany Lions since he first stepped on the field. Over the last two seasons he gradually became a leader on the defense. Cabinda was involved in seven tackles, one for loss and one sack on Senior Day. Compared to other games this season, this was a relatively quiet day for the senior who has one forced fumble and 29 tackles on the season. He will undoubtedly be missed next season.
Senior Safety Marcus Allen has brought charisma, hard-hitting and a smile to every game over his career at Penn State. Senior Day at Penn State was no different. Allen plays safety for the Nittany Lions secondary, but is often in the opposing team’s backfield. Allen had two tackles on Saturday, a relatively quiet day, but while on the field he made it nearly impossible for the Cornhuskers to move downfield through the air. This season alone, Allen has 36 tackles, one sack, one forced fumble and one interception. His career high for tackles came against Pittsburgh and Ohio State with 9 in each game. His swagger, leadership and smile will be hard to replace.
Wide receiver DaeSean Hamilton has been a reliable target for both Trace McSorley and former quarterback Christian Hackenberg over his seasons in blue and white. He surpassed Penn State’s all-time receptions record earlier in the season against Indiana and has not looked back since.
On Senior Day at Penn State on Saturday, Hamilton had four receptions for 42 yards. His seven touchdowns are the most he has had in any of his four seasons as a Nittany Lion; he passed his previous high of six in 2015. Hamilton has become a reliable target for Penn State quarterbacks over the last four seasons. While his consistency and ability will be missed, he has given young receivers something to aspire to and glimpses of this have already been seen in Juwan Johnson.
Senior tight end Mike Gesicki was a former volleyball player that has become known to Nittany Lion fans as the player that can catch anything, but in 2015 that was not the case. Gesicki had to mature a lot after the departure of former Penn State great Jesse James and he rose to the challenge. On Senior Day alone, Gesicki caught two touchdown passes off of four receptions for 47 yards.
Furthermore, he already has seven touchdowns on the season. He is most known to the college football world for his touchdown celebration against Michigan. He jumped over quarterback Trace McSorley. Gesicki is the number one tight end prospect in the NFL Draft. He has 1,384 receiving yards over his career, which is a new all-time Penn State record. Mr. Reliable will be missed, but junior tight end Nick Bowers had his first touchdown reception yesterday in the fourth quarter. The future for the tight end position looks bright.
Finally, Saquon Barkley
Junior running back Saquon Barkley probably played his last game in Beaver Stadium on Saturday. He may not be a senior, but with the possibility of the NFL Draft looming, he played like it was a senior send-off. Behind a, once again, healthy offensive line the Heisman hopeful got back into form against Nebraska. Barkley started the rushing game off with a 65-yard touchdown run in the first quarter and then got two more as the game progressed. He finished the game with 224 all-purpose yards in less than three quarters of work.
Barkley also surpassed former Penn State great Lydell Mitchell for all-time rushing touchdowns with 39. Furthermore, he got another 1,000 rushing yard season for the third-straight season, with 1,057 yards. Finally, with two games left this season, Maryland next week and a Bowl Game, Barkley told reporters after the win on Saturday that he will be playing in Penn State’s Bowl Game no matter what. Unless something unthinkable happens and he gets injured, look for Barkley to finish the season out strong.
Penn State plays their final regular season game at Maryland next week. Kick-off is at 3:30 pm EDT on Big Ten Network.
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