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Nick Singleton Earns Saquon Barkley, Ki-Jana Carter Comparisons At Rose Bowl

When true freshman running back Nick Singleton broke off his 87-yard touchdown run during Penn State’s 35-21 Rose Bowl win Monday, there was a palpable buzz — not just inside the stadium, but among the fanbase writ large.

Singleton certainly had his fair share of extended touchdown runs in 2022. In his second career game, he even managed two against Ohio in his home debut.

But as Singleton streaked past the entirety of Utah’s defense, something felt different.

Even the most nostalgia-obsessed Nittany Lion fan couldn’t have scripted it better. Just as Penn State greats Saquon Barkley and Ki-Jana Carter did before him, Singleton exploded on one of the biggest stages in college football when his team needed it. In fact, his highlight moment came on a longer run than Barkley and Carter’s respective runs of 79 and 83 yards.

When asked about his thoughts on joining the legendary program zeitgeist, Singleton reported feeling humbled.

“It was crazy. I’ve been watching their highlights, especially the type of plays they made in the Rose Bowl,” Singleton said. “I wanted to make that type of plays.”

By the time Singleton and the rest of Penn State’s offense were relieved by clock-draining reserves, the freshman star had racked up 120 yards and a pair of touchdowns on the ground. All his production came on just seven carries –– a fact that led Singleton to admit he still had leftover energy after the game.

Comparisons of current athletes to legendary ones are oftentimes greeted with a canned response: “I want to be the first me.” Although the strat comm-created answer is overplayed and frequently inauthentic, it might apply in the case of Singleton.

As a senior in high school, Singleton excelled in similar fashion. In one game, the Governor Mifflin ball carrier scored six touchdowns and eclipsed 300 yards on only 12 carries. But that was when he was the best high school player in the country facing off with sub-six-foot teenagers, not when he was an 18-year-old true freshman playing future NFL draft picks.

To display this level of dominance against a conference champion team simultaneously draws comical comparisons to Singleton’s past, rarely-challenged self and elicits wonder about the future.

At the team’s pre-Rose Bowl media day, Penn State running back coach Ja’Juan Seider said Singleton has grown substantially since his first spring ball sessions and still has room to grow.

“I’m gonna sit back and enjoy him,” Seider said. “Because I got him for a few more years, and I’m not gonna take that for granted.”

If Singleton truly hasn’t yet reached his peak, the team’s offensive potential seems unmatched. Already paired with strong co-starter Kaytron Allen, Singleton represents a lethal Penn State ground game.

With the 2022 season now over, Singleton ends as Penn State’s first 1,000-yard rusher since Miles Sanders in 2018. Over the course of the year, Singleton recorded 1,061 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns (12 rushing, one receiving, and one kickoff return) en route to being named Big Ten Freshman of the Year.

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About the Author

Sam Fremin

Sam is a senior from Ashburn, Virginia, majoring in journalism and political science & minoring in German and creative writing. He is a Dallas Cowboys fan who relishes the misery of Eagles fans. All hate messages can be sent to [email protected] or @SamFremin on Twitter.

He may or may not read every single comment he gets.

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