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If Saturday Was His Last, Barkley Shines In Beaver Stadium Encore

by on November 18, 2017 6:23 PM

Standing.

Nobody made Beaver Stadium stand faster than Saquon Barkley. A 230-pound ball of muscle that could leap over defenders, shake past would-be tacklers and make future NFL players look like beginners.

He is, and continues to be a generational talent. The best player in college football who saw his Heisman hopes extinguished not by his inability to live up to them but insufficient support in front of him. As Baker Mayfield crotch-grabs his way down Oklahoma's sideline Barkley continues to be as good of a person off the field as he is a player on it.

So it was fitting that he could put together one final performance for a Beaver Stadium crowd that was there in the rain and wind to witness just that. To see a player unlike the hundreds they have witnessed before. 60 minutes in rarefied air once again.

And they got what they wanted, a 158-yards on the ground in the midst of a stretch where Barkley was more threat than production, his showing on Saturday night was equal parts the usual for him and an outlier for much of the back half of Penn State's season.

The night started with a bang, a 65-yard scamper early in the game to send the crowd to its feet yet again, 224 yards of offense on a night where Penn State managed 609 while thumping an old foe with ease.

He showcased his power, a plowing rush through defenders one of his three touchdowns in the first quarter.

He displayed his speed, blowing by a Nebraska defense that could only hope the wet field would trip him up. It never did.

He featured the fearlessness for the moment, a flip into the endzone that was inches from counting for six more points.

After the game Barkley wouldn't do much more than acknowledge his pending life choice, a decision to return to Penn State or make the most of the moment and the millions that await him the NFL. All he would say is that he would talk it over with his family and coaches. Nothing more, and nothing more expected from those who asked.

"I told Saquon what he should do before the season started," James Franklin said after the game. "We had a long conversation. What I try and do for all of our players is give them advice that I would give my son. If I feel like they should come back to school to finish their degree and have an opportunity to go on and get one more season of development I tell them that. If I think they should leave early now, I tell them that as well."

But they both know what will happen. It's why Barkley soaked it all up as he entered the stadium, signing autographs and waving. It's why he stood on the sideline as the game ended and looked into the stands, watching the celebration. It's why he has a stock answer ready when his future at Penn State is brought up. It's why he was one of the last off the field.

He knows, and everyone else does too. His stock will never be higher, his value never greater. And as linebacker Jason Cabinda said after the game, "It's a business, and it will chew you up and spit you out." 

So baring something only theoretically possible, Saquon Barkley will play two more games for the Pennsylvania State University and then make his way to the National Football League. Before that happens, for at least a few more weeks, Penn State fans can enjoy him. A product of their state, a product of what is right about college football, a kid finding himself and finding talents that even the best recruiting services undervalued. A player that has won them more than a few games.

Saquon Barkley will never win the Heisman Trophy, something that will be an unfortunate truth for an award that he should have locked up weeks ago.

But for one final time he made Beaver Stadium stand.

And for one final time he added to his long list of plays that may never be bettered in a stadium not short on big moments.

Oh and the bowl game?

“I’m not gone yet, guys,” Barkley said. “Hopefully there’s plenty more to come, plenty more the rest of the season. Hopefully we can make some more memories.”



Ben Jones covers Penn State football and basketball for StateCollege.com. He's on Twitter as @Ben_Jones88.
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