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Penn State Football: Saquon Barkley's Night Not To Be Overlooked

by on October 18, 2015 2:00 PM

There was no guarantee it would go this way.

Penn State could have walked out on the the field with hopeful star Saquon Barkley in the backfield and watched his early season success turn out to be the result of opponents. A good player running past not so good players.

That's not what happened though.

His first carry was short, stuffed up the middle as he made a slight turn towards the right side of the line. If anything about that run was concerning, it was Ohio State's ease at which the Buckeyes made it to Barkley. His talented vision and feet can make you miss, but it can't make everyone miss.

The next drive, the wheels started to turn in the span of just eight plays.

A four yard carry.

Then a five yard carry.

And then a six yard carry.

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Nine yards more yards after that.

A coming out party during a single drive nearly capped off by a 44-yard run and score. But an obvious holding penalty brought the Nittany Lions back. No points on this drive, but Barkley was present and accounted for.

"I think he adds another element," Christian Hackenberg said following the game. "He can get yards after contact and he did a great job of that all day today. That helped a lot of things get going for us...obviously I think we did a lot of good things but we weren't able to capitalize on things like I think we needed to and string some things together."

"I was hopeful that [Barkley] was going to be able to play last week," James Franklin said. "Obviously, he played well this week. We want to be able to continue building on that."

That's the trick, making the most of the big plays and the opportunities they provide. Barkley did his part in that area too, rushing for 56-yards on first down from the Penn State 23 all the way to the Ohio State 21. With the Nittany Lions down 24-10 early in the fourth quarter, that spark was what the team needed to stay alive.

But instead Penn State gained a net of just six yards over the ensuing four plays. Two from Akeel Lynch, six from Brandon Polk and then Hackenberg getting sacked for a two yard loss on fourth down from the Ohio State 13.

It's hard to imagine many situations when a team can have an 100-yard receiver and nearly a 200-yard rusher and still fall 28 points behind by the end of the night. If nothing else a nod to the struggles Penn State had finishing drives and the talent and speed at which Ohio State can make the most of its opponents miscues.

From the perspective of the longterm health of the program, those things are secondary to the truth that shined brightly in front of over 108,000 fans dressed in black.

Saquon Barkley is very much the real deal.

His 194 rushing yards in 26 carries are the 4th-most by a Penn State true freshman. He also has the 3rd-highest total with 195 vs. Rutgers. Barkley's 194 rushing yards the most by a Penn State running back against Ohio State since Eric McCoo's 211 yds in 1999 win. In Barkley's two Big Ten games he has over 190 yards in each game in just over 20 carries.

Those a B1G numbers.

The problem with coming out parties, the secret is no longer a secret as Barkley moves on with the rest of his career. He will be Penn State's top weapon and top asset for as long as he remains on campus. In a lot of ways he is the best player the Nittany Lions can throw at an opponent on either side of the ball. That comes with great responsibility and great expectations.

So far Barkley seems to be handling it all well from behind the protection of Penn State's policy regarding true freshman not speaking to the media.

Sooner or later though the day will come when that shield comes down and everyone will get to know No. 26  the kid who can make you gasp and make you pay attention.

And it's hard to find anyone who isn't looking forward to that day.



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