Saquon Barkley Leaps Into Heisman Consideration
If you think you’ve seen Saquon Barkley do the unthinkable, there’s a strong chance he’ll make you scratch your head two seconds later. The big plays just keep coming.
Barkley broke the 1,000-yard rushing mark for the second season in a row during No. 12 Penn State’s 41-14 shellacking of Iowa. He’s the first Nittany Lion to accomplish that feat since Evan Royster did it thrice (08, 09, 10).
Barkley’s now the program’s 15th all-time rusher with 2,131 yards — 1,801 away from tying the Fairfax, Va., standout for the school standard just 22 games into his career. Royster’s sophomore record of 1,236 is well within reach for the showstopper.
“1,000 yards is big. And when I [say] big, not for myself. I kinda take it as it’s the offensive line also,” Barkley said following the win. “Every time I have a big rushing game, I’ll feed them donuts just to let ’em know that I’m grateful for them. I go to Dunkin Donuts and get two dozen.”
The Coplay, Pa., native currently checks in at 1,055 with a Big Ten-leading 13 total touchdowns (two receiving). He finished Saturday night with 20 carries for 167 yards (8.4 average) and a pair of dazzling scores from 57 and 44 yards out, respectively. His 1,329 all-purpose output (257 receiving) through nine games is also tops in the conference by more than 200 yards. The 5-foot-11, 223-pounder deservedly nabbed a prestigious spot on the list of Maxwell Award semifinalists last Monday.
It’s time Saquon Barkley joins the Heisman discussion, but he won’t be the one to toss his name in. “[I’m] not even paying attention to that,” Barkley said. “That’s like with the rankings, you can’t control it. The only thing I can control is myself and what I do for my team.”
James Franklin was taken aback by his star running back’s second jaw-dropping hurdle of the evening — this time, backwards.
“The one play that surprised me is the play where he got spun around, and somehow he knew that the guy was gonna tackle him from behind low,” Franklin said. “He was going backwards and jumped up and avoided the guy. I don’t know if he’s looking at the jumbotron. That one was special. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen that one before.”
Barkley could tell when the Hawkeye defense had had enough. Right after junior safety Troy Apke’s first career interception. “You can see in their demeanor when they don’t wanna be on the field no more, when you’ve got ’em. When you see that, you can’t let ’em hang,” the sophomore said. “After that pick, you could tell the way we stormed the field and their approach was just real different.”
No. 26 took the Beaver Stadium Media Room through his thought process on that 57-yard gem, mentioning the importance of swinging for the fences. “When I got on the outside, I saw the safety come down, and that’s my job to make that guy miss,” Barkley said. “I kinda slipped and I was able to spring open. When you get the chance, you’ve gotta finish ’em. When you get a chance to hit a home run, you’ve gotta hit a home run. “
Franklin also said during his postgame presser that he thinks his Nittany Lions and the coaching staff are all singing the same song right now. Though music tastes differ among his teammates, Barkley offered his preference for said song. “I’m a big Drake and Meek Mill fan, which is kinda ironic cause they don’t like each other. I would say ‘Fake Love‘ by Drake.”
Barkley’s quarterback Trace McSorley, who has a front-row seat on those deadly read-options, admitted that he often can’t believe his eyes. “You give him the ball and half the time I don’t even know where he’s gonna go,” McSorley said. “It’s fun to watch. Sometimes, I just wanna hand the ball off and watch what he does. There’s something he does different every game where it’s like, ‘Whoa.'”
Whether the rest of America likes it or not, the high-flying Nittany Lions are back in the national spotlight, and Saquon Barkley deserves his Heisman hype.