BLOOMINGTON, Ind. - Saquon Barkley remembers the moment.
It came six weeks ago. Still smarting from a 49-10 loss at Michigan, Penn State was struggling at home against Minnesota. The Nittany Lions trailed, 13-3, at the half with an offense that was going nowhere when they took over at the 20 for their initial possession of the second half.
However, on the third play, Trace McSorley looked downfield and spotted redshirt freshman Irvin Charles open at the Minnesota 40. Charles caught the pass and raced the rest of the way for an 80-yard touchdown. The Lions went on to a 29-26 win on Barkley's 25-yard touchdown run in overtime.
"When Irv scored, I guess you could say it kind of was the play that really changed our season," said Barkley, the Big Ten's leading rusher with 1,055 yards. "You can't say one play but if you think about it, that game was going the other way. We were able to pull it out in OT. That was the play that helped change our season around and really got us going."
That launched a five-game winning streak that has Penn State players confident and their fans giddy. Now the 10th-ranked Nittany Lions (7-2, 5-1) return Saturday to the Hoosier State with a Big Ten game against Indiana at Memorial Stadium.
Of course, danger lurks at every turn. This will be only the Lions' second road game since their winning run began. Two weeks ago, in another part of Indiana, Penn State broke out from a 17-17 halftime deadlock and routed Purdue, 62-24.
The Hoosiers (5-4, 3-3) own one of the best passing attacks in the conference behind quarterback Richard Lagow and have been playing better defense than what has been seen from them in the past. In addition, they need one more win to become bowl eligible.
So with everyone on campus patting Penn State players on the back because of their extended period of success, head coach James Franklin is trying to keep his weekly approach consistent.
"I think young people in general, a lot of times, handle adversity better than success," Franklin said. "As soon as you have some success and people are patting you on the back, you can become complacent, you feel like you've arrived. I think that's human nature. It's a challenge.
"A lot of things we do in our [game-week] approach help with that by keeping our routine consistent, not change for an in-state game or an out-of-conference game or an in-conference game or what outsiders would deem as a big game. For us, each week is the Super Bowl."
The Nittany Lions will stay with the course that has helped the last five weeks. They have been successful in not coughing up the football, with just two turnovers (one offense, one special teams) during their win streak. McSorley has thrown 124 consecutive passes without an interception.
Plus, the Lions have been thriving with explosive plays, a stat that includes 23 completions of 30 yards or more by McSorley.
"I think a big thing would be our turnover margin," McSorley said. "Obviously the explosive plays for us have been huge. That's something I think we've been pretty good at, and continue to have success at doing those types of things."
The Nittany Lions go into the game down their two injured starting offensive tackles, Andrew Nelson and Brendan Mahon. Backups Paris Palmer and Chasz Wright have done a good job but Franklin has worked starting left guard Ryan Bates (Archbishop Wood) to fill in just in case Palmer or Wright have to come out.
Franklin explained that true freshman Will Fries had been third-team but with three games left, he does not want to burn Fries' redshirt.