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Offseason Musings: How Far Did Saquon Barkley Run During His Famous Rose Bowl TD?

by on April 13, 2017 2:00 PM

You're going to have to indulge me here, because I haven't stopped thinking about this play.

Saquon Barkley's 79-yard touchdown run in the Rose Bowl, a play that would have gone down as one of the most memorable in Penn State football history if the Nittany Lions had hung on. All told nobody who saw it will forget it, but fans try not to think of losses more than they have to.

So I apologize for giving you a little bit of heartburn.

But ever since that 15 second run around northern LA I have always wondered how far did Barkley actually run? It's 79-yards on paper, but Barkley took the scenic route around the field to finally find the endzone.

This isn't an exact science, or at least I haven't implemented exact science, but I'm fairly confident I can answer my months old question.

However, with any math problem, it's important to show your work.

  • To start, Trace McSorley gives Barkley the ball around the 17 with the ball spotted at the 21 right on the left hash. Barkley gets the ball and runs to the 19 before stuttering to his right. Two yards right there behind the line of scrimmage.

  • Then Barkley runs from hash to hash essentially straight down the 19. In college football the distance between the two hashes is 40 feet. So that's 13.3 more yards just running down the line. We'll round down because decimals are dumb.

  • Running from the 20 to the 30 Barkley takes a diagonal path from the hash to the top of the numbers. The hash marks are 60 feet from the sideline and the top of the numbers are 27 feet from the sideline, so that results in Barkley creating a very rough 30x33 foot rectangle, we just need to know an approximate diagonal distance. Thankfully there's an equation for that. Using the Pythagorean Theorem we can calculate the diagonal length of what essentially is a triangle of data. It works out to 44.59 feet but again, decimals, but in this case we'll round up and say about 15 yards to run 10. 

  • Barkley then runs from the 30 to the 40 in a straight line across the top of the numbers. That's nice and easy, thank you Saquon. 10 yards.

  • Beyond that Barkley goes basically in a diagonal line from the top of Penn State's 40 to the top of the USC 20. To be perfectly honest it's more of a curve than a straight line but for our purposes we can still use these two points and get a fairly accurate measurement. Using the same theorem Barkley ran the length of 40 yards on the field and from the top of one number to the top of another. The tops of the numbers on the field are 106 feet apart. So that's a rectangle of 120 feet by 106 feet and a diagonal run of roughly 160 feet or 53 yards***

  • Barkley then runs from the top of the 20 to the corner of the endzone which is 20 yards on the field but works out to be just about 22 yards at a diagonal. That's 23 feet from the top of the numbers to the sideline, and 60 feet from the 20 to the endzone.

So what does that work out to? 

  • 2 yards to the line
  • 13 down
  • 15 diagonal 
  • 10 across
  • 53 diagonal
  • 22 slight diagonal.

That's 115 yards to run 79.

Now I can stop thinking about it.


This was an eyeball science and Barkley did very little in the way of running exactly in a straight line, so there is a bit of liberty taken when it comes to this. If anything Barkley probably ran a bit farther than 115 yards, but the point remains the same, he ran far.

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