Through six games, running back Saquon Barkley has garnered national attention as a frontrunner for the Heisman Trophy this season. His main competition includes Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield and Stanford runningback Bryce Love, with a few others not far behind.
Barkley has been compared to the likes of NFL stars like Reggie Bush, Barry Sanders, Ezekiel Elliott, Todd Gurley, and more. Each year, the Heisman winner solidifies his spot with a jaw-dropping “Heisman Moment” on a big stage.
This begs the question: If the season were to end today, what would Barkley’s top Heisman moments be?
Returning the opening kickoff for a touchdown against Indiana
For the first time in his career, Saquon Barkley took a kickoff return to the house. pic.twitter.com/UgAE157EHY
— Onward State (@OnwardState) September 30, 2017
After an impressive game on the road against the Iowa Hawkeyes, Barkley already had the nation waiting to see what more he could do. It wasn’t long before he put up six points, taking a mere 14 seconds to get into the end zone on the opening kickoff.
Barkley’s ability to break a game open with his electric play-making is what so many NFL scouts are drooling over when they watch the Nittany Lions play. Fans were skeptical when James Franklin decided to play Barkley on special teams because of the injury risk, but plays like this show why Franklin utilizes his jack-of-all-trades running back on two different sides of the ball.
Turning on the jets against Georgia State
Saquon Barkley's 85-yard touchdown catch makes him the only player in Penn State history with an 80+ yard touchdown catch and run. pic.twitter.com/8ZHdB32btT
— Onward State (@OnwardState) September 17, 2017
In the second game of the season, Barkley showed off the wheels on this touchdown scamper. Tightroping the sideline, Barkley burned a few Georgia State defenders en route to the third-longest touchdown reception in Penn State history. The score also made him the first player in school history to have an 80-yard rushing and receiving touchdown.
When asked about Barkley after the game, James Franklin said, “In open space, I can’t imagine a more explosive, dangerous player than him…I stopped being surprised or amazed awhile ago.” The Nittany Lions went on to shut out the Panthers 56-0, further solidifying Barkley’s position as a serious Heisman contender.
One-handed catch and run vs. Indiana
Barkley did his best Odell Beckham Jr. impression on this play before gaining a big chunk of yardage into Indiana territory. He made the Hoosier defenders look silly on this play, as he once again turned what looked like a loss into a big gain.
Barkley may not have made much noise as far as rushing yards this week, but managed to find a way to provide fans with a few ridiculously athletic plays. He poured in another 221 yards of all-purpose yards, and managed to throw his first career touchdown as well. While mostly known for his agility in the run game, Barkley is top three in the Big Ten in both receptions (27) and receiving yards (386).
Shaking off a tough day to break out for a long score
It was only a matter of time before Saquon broke loose. pic.twitter.com/EnpZuvz1Xq
— Onward State (@OnwardState) October 7, 2017
Not all of Barkley’s games have been gems in 2017. In a rough game against Northwestern where the star running back finished the first half in negative yardage on the ground, he recovered in the second half to rush for two touchdowns, including this 53-yard carry to the house, which put the game away for the Nittany Lions.
Dominating Iowa: Part One
ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit puts it best in this video. How does he do that? Barkley’s ability to change speeds at will is what makes him the special player he is. The combination of quickness, agility, size, and strength makes him a nightmare for opposing defenses to face.
As Iowa found out the hard way a few weeks ago, even when you think you have Barkley corralled, you never really do. He stops on a dime almost instantly, avoiding All-American linebacker Josey Jewell while also remaining in bounds. Jewell had kept Iowa in this game for the most part due to his suffocating defense, but it was only a matter of time until Barkley ripped him to shreds.
Dominating Iowa: Part Two
When fans think of Saquon Barkley, they think of the combination of attributes. But there’s one thing that coaches can’t teach, and that’s straight athleticism. Only up by two in the hostile Iowa City crowd, Barkley took it upon himself to will his team to victory. On 3rd and 6 from their own 16, Barkley pulled out his signature hurdle move (while taking a monster hit) and managed to keep the legs moving and get the first down.
This entire performance, which included a school-record 358 all-purpose yards, left athletes like Ezekiel Elliott, Mike Trout, and Justin Thomas stunned on Twitter. The announcers may have called him “Superman” after this play, but Heisman winner just might have a better ring to it.