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Penn State Football: Saquon as Dog, Goat & Unicorn

by on September 24, 2017 5:00 AM

IOWA CITY, IOWA — What Saquon Barkley did in the sweltering heat here against the Hawkeyes on Saturday night is something that no Penn State back has ever done.

Not once, not in the 1,297 games that preceded the No. 4 Nittany Lions' walk-off 21-19 victory over Iowa in Kinnick Stadium.

Barkley piled up 358 all-purpose yards — a career-best 211 on runs, 94 on receptions and 53 on kickoff returns.

That's better than Curt Warner's 341 at Syracuse in 1981. And Larry Johnson's 327 — all on the ground— at Indiana in 2002. And Barkley's own 306 vs. USC in the Rose Bowl on Jan. 2, 2017.

Which makes Barkley the GOAT (i.e., greatest of all time), at least for all-purpose purposes. And a few others as well.

The junior running back is a workhorse, after all, whose teammates think is also part dog and part unicorn.

And as of Sunday morning, when the most recent NCAA college statistics were released, Barkley ranks No. 1 for all-purpose yards per game, at 253.25. See the rankings here.


At this rate, Barkley is on a regular season pace for 1,554 rushing yards and 1,005 receiving yards. That's not counting any conference title, playoff or bowl game(s).

Safety Marcus Allen is Barkley's coolest teammate. Thus, he may be the most qualified to comment on Barkley's it and most-lit factors:

"The difference between Saquon and all the other running backs is that Saquon literally has dog in him. You know what I'm saying? A lot of people don't have dog in them. You can't teach that. You have just have to be born with it. And Saquon was born with that dog. You gotta to have it to know what it is."

Barkley has it. And he knows what it is. It takes one to know one.

We know this because 10 minutes after the aforementioned pronouncement, not knowing what Allen had said, Barkley said this about his team: "We have that dog in us."


No Heisman Trophy winner has ever worn No. 26. Yet.

Tight end Mike Gesicki, a fellow preseason All-American, says that in Barkley "we have the best player in the country." Gesicki said he challenged the back to be just that on Barkley's run on a fourth-and-1 midway through the fourth quarter:

"If you're going to be the best, be the best," Gesicki hollered at Barkley above the din of the Stripe-out crowd, just before lining up.

To which Saquon replied:

"Make sure you cut up the C gap. Get me the hole and I'll get the first down."

And Barkley did just that, with three yards to spare.


Barkley is Penn State's leading rusher and receiver — not just against Iowa on Saturday night, but for the 2017 season. He's also the No. 2 rusher in the Big Ten, with 510 yards. And the No. 1 pass catcher in the conference, with 23 receptions.

This is from Ryan Bates, Penn State's most reliable and reliably glib offensive lineman:

"It's always good to have Saquon Barkley on your side and in your backfield. Now, I know he can make people miss. He can run people over. He can jump over people. He can catch the ball, he can run the ball, he can block. He can do everything.

"He's one of a kind, man."


Barkley passed the #3k career rushing mark on Saturday night. He now has 3,090 yards and is No. 7 all-time at PSU. He is 843 yards from surpassing Evan Royster's record of 3,932 yards.

"Saquon Barkley," said Penn State head coach James Franklin after the game. "I cannot imagine that there's a better player in all of college football. I've been doing this for 23 years and this guy is special. I don't know what his stats were or what he did, but every time he touched the ball — I don't care if it was a 20-yard run or an 8-yard run, it was something special. It really was."


Barkley carried the ball 28 times, caught 12 passes and returned three kickoffs (for 24, 18 and 11 yards). They went like this  — as opposed to they "looked like this," which you had to have just seen for yourself. The tallies are in order, but at this point with Barkley in 2017, does it really matter which is a run and which is a reception?

First quarter: 11 touches for 76 yards — 6, 5, 5, 12, -1, 2, 15, 5, 6, 9, 12.

Second quarter: 8 touches for 76 yards — 5, 8, 5, 24, 7, -2, 11, 18.

Third quarter: 10 touches for 119 yards (all runs) — 25, 16, 1, 44, 4, 2, 8, 7, 7, 5.

Fourth quarter: 14 touches for 87 yards — 0, 11, 9, 0, 10, 7, 1, 1, 4, 7, 15, 0, 8, 14.

Total — 43 touches for 358 yards.

It's the leaps in a single bound, though, that really make Saquon sometimes seem like Superman.

"Most of that is just instinct," Barkley explained late Saturday night.

"...Your body just takes over, you let go and you let God happen."

Mike Poorman has covered Penn State football since 1979, and for since the 2009 season. His column appears on Mondays and Fridays. Follow him on Twitter at His views and opinions do not necessarily reflect those of Penn State University.
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