Does Heisman Trophy await Saquon Barkley?

Penn State quarterback Trace McSorley (9) hands off to running back Saquon Barkley.

It didn’t take long in the first quarter for Saquon Barkley to strengthen his Heisman Trophy case.

With less than a minute left in the opening period Saturday against Georgia State, the star running back completed an 85-yard touchdown catch. It was Penn State’s longest touchdown pass ever at Beaver Stadium.

Barkley is also the first Nittany Lion to have recorded both a touchdown catch and run over 80 yards.

“Saquon, he’s just got so many tools,” Penn State coach James Franklin said. “You’re talking about a 230-pound guy who can make you miss, can run you over and then can burst up the sideline.”

It probably wasn’t a surprise to many that Barkley showed off against Georgia State (0-2), which was bulldozed by the Nittany Lions, 56-0.

The dynamic junior had 10 rushing attempts for 47 yards and caught four passes for 142 yards and a touchdown. Needless to say, Barkley didn’t see much more playing time after the first half. And neither did the rest of the first team.

But, when he wasn’t playing, Franklin said, there was nobody more excited than Barkley on the sidelines. And he wouldn’t let Franklin and offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead forget it as he kept running up to them and showing support for some of his younger teammates who saw action.

“He’s a special guy in a lot of different ways,” Franklin said.

But Barkley wasn’t always playing at this level. Two years ago, he told the coaching staff he wanted to get faster.

He didn’t have much trouble reaching his goal.

“This year, in open space, I can’t imagine that there’s a more explosive, dangerous player in space than him,” Franklin said.

Early in the second quarter, Barkley headed to the sideline to receive medical attention. Although it wasn’t clear what was wrong, it wasn’t anything too serious as he was back on the field near the end of the half.

“I stopped being surprised or amazed with him a while ago,” Franklin said.