Regardless Of The Outcome, Saquon Barkley’s Prowess Is Something To Be Cherished
Penn State entered The Horseshoe as huge underdogs in a game not many expected it to win. For a while, the Lions hung around, inspiring hope as they tried to dethrone the reigning National Champions. Well, things soured fairly quickly after a pair of quick J.T. Barrett scores, coupled with momentum-crippling offensive stagnation in the most dire times. Regardless of what the final score read, one thing should remain clear; Saquon Barkley, at just 18-years old, is special, and his unique abilities are meant to be cherished.
James Franklin and his staff did their homework in the week leading up to last night’s showdown in Columbus. Ohio State is stout across the spectrum, flashing a dominant pass defense that rendered Christian Hackenberg helpless in certain situations — especially when faced with make-or-break fourth down scenarios. But in the area where the Buckeyes showed weakness, Penn State made sure to exploit it in every way imaginable. Struggling against opposing rushing attacks all season long, Franklin unleashed Barkley onto the Buckeye defense for a grand total of 26 carries for 194 yards and a staggering 7.5 yards per carry. The performance should’ve dispelled any doubt that Barkley’s early success was a mere product of the lesser opponents he faced in the early weeks of the season. Let me make this perfectly clear; Barkley stepped onto the field against the No. 1 team in the country and hung 194 while breaking off a number of dazzling runs. Had it not been for a blatant hold, that total would’ve ended up well in the 200s.
It’s not the sheer magnitude of Barkley’s performance that should be admired, however. It’s the fact that Penn State would’ve been worse off by a large margin had it not been for the presence of the 18-year old phenom. To have such a profound impact on the offense each time he touches the ball is a quality only great players possess, and to have that quality as a freshman is on a level of its own.
Barkley’s teammates — specifically his offensive linemen — are taking notice of what the dazzling freshman can do on a weekly basis, and understand how important he is to the team’s overall success.
“We’re never surprised at what he can do, and I believe that we have some of the best backs in the nation,” said Brendan Mahon. “I’ve said this before, their work ethic shows throughout the week, and it definitely shows on Saturdays when they play. For a guy like Saquon to bust runs like that, it just becomes a great tool to success.”
Fellow offensive lineman Andrew Nelson shared a similar sentiment, reiterating the remarkable impact Barkley can have on a weekly basis.
“That guy’s a great player, and he’s going to do great things for Penn State,” Nelson said. “We’re very thankful for him, and he’s a make-it-right kind guy in that he might not get everything blocked exactly, but he can make you right and make people miss. He’s definitely an explosive player and we’re just so thankful for him.”
That speaks volumes about both a player’s character and ability when veteran leaders speak so highly of somebody so inexperienced and young, but that just shows the type of person Barkley is. He has a seemingly infinite ceiling, and flashes traits of some of the greatest backs to ever come through the Penn State program. But he’s a special talent that shouldn’t be taken for granted. To be able to throw up ludicrous numbers against a mid-major school is one thing, but to record video game-like stats on the reigning National Champions is on a whole new level.
Saquon Barkley’s journey is only just beginning, but he won’t be here forever. Take each game as a new adventure, and just sit back and enjoy the spectacle. I have a feeling Barkley is destined for greatness on the gridiron, and just like his teammates, we should all be thankful for him.