STATE COLLEGE, Pennsylvania — All Janarion Grant could do was call for a fair catch here and there, and wait for other chances to get the football in his hands.
They rarely came.
Rutgers talented returner was held in check and the Scarlet Knights lost 28-3 to Penn State in the Big Ten Conference opener for both teams at Beaver Stadium on Saturday night.
It was a tough first game for interim head coach Norries Wilson, filling in for Kyle Flood who is serving a three-game suspension for contacting a faculty member about a player's grade.
"I didn't have any fun tonight," Wilson said. "I am sure that no one would want to become a head coach this way. It's my responsibility on game day to make sure the young men execute the plan, and I failed in that today."
Rutgers (1-2, 0-1) failed to move the ball into the red zone against an aggressive Penn State defense and managed only a 34-yard field goal from Kyle Frederico in the fourth quarter. Quarterback Chris Laviano was 27 for 42 with 251 yards passing for the Scarlet Knights. He was intercepted twice and sacked five times.
Grant caught four passes for 22 yards after returning a punt and two kickoffs for scores in the first two games. He lost a yard on his lone punt return and managed just eight yards on his only kickoff return against the Nittany Lions (2-1, 1-0).
While Rutgers' playmaker was neutralized, Penn State's took control.
Rutgers had no answer for Penn State's rejuvenated running game, and couldn't get to quarterback Christian Hackenberg, who took advantage of his offensive line's sudden emergence.
Thompkins' scoring run capped an 80-yard drive in the second quarter. Barkley had perfect inside blocking and finished off a 90-yard drive with his first touchdown two possessions later.
When Barkley wasn't bursting through holes, Lynch was. The junior raced untouched into the end zone to give Penn State a 21-0 halftime lead.
"We've had two weeks in a row where we haven't given up a sack. We're able to run the ball," Penn State coach James Franklin said. "I think Barkley has brought something to our offense. I think him and Akeel are a nice one-two punch right now."
Playing without starting left tackle Andrew Nelson, Penn State's front five kept Rutgers pass rushers — including Darius Hamilton who made his return to the lineup — off of Hackenberg. The Penn State quarterback was not sacked for the second straight week, and was 10 of 19 for 141 yards passing with one interception.
"I think the past two weeks, their performance, they've done a great job," Hackenberg said. He was 10 of 19 for 141 yards passing, and threw a late interception.
Rutgers struggled to move the ball all night in the rain that picked up as the game wore on. The Scarlet Knights managed just 115 yards to Penn State's 311 in the first half, and added 179 more the rest of the way.
"We were consistent," Penn State defensive tackle and New Jersey product Austin Johnson said. "That's all we need to be consistent and we'll be really good and it's going to be really hard to beat us."
It was a rough end to a tough week for the Rutgers program that saw Flood suspended and six players dismissed from the program following arrests. Three former players were also arrested recently.
"This program is not out of control and I am not going to speak on the impact that it has had on this team," Wilson said.
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