After an explosive performance by Saquon Barkley, in which the junior running back broke a program record by scoring his 39th career rushing touchdown, he said he has not decided whether he will declare for the NFL draft or return for his final year of eligibility.
But Barkley did confirm he will play in Penn State’s bowl game. After the Nittany Lions’ win against Nebraska on Saturday, he addressed rumors concerning whether he would play, as some players who declare for the draft sit out their team’s bowl game.
“I never said that I would not play in the bowl game,” Barkley said. “I said that I would play in a game because I will play with my teammates, my brothers. But I understand why some players have not played in a bowl.
“I’m different than that, from Christian McCaffrey and all those others guys. Our situations are different. We are all different players, different people. … Me personally, I have two games left, and I’ll be ready to play.”
The final game of the regular season will be at Maryland next week, with the bowl game yet to be announced.
But Barkley will surely ramp up his efforts in the hopes of staying alive in the Heisman race. Fans saw a glimpse of that Saturday after he struggled in his last three outings.
Against the Cornhuskers, Barkley rushed 17 times for 158 yards and three touchdowns, averaging 9.3 yards per carry. That is a dramatic improvement from the game against Rutgers last week, in which Barkley had negative rushing yards after the first half. The versatile athlete also had six receptions for 66 yards Saturday. Barkley has 3,629 career rushing yards.
Despite his impressive statistics, backup quarterback Tommy Stevens said that Barkley is even more impressive off the field.
“It’s not even just a front for the media,” Stevens said of Barkley’s unassuming manner. “I’ve seen on multiple occasions where he’ll stop … and sign autographs for little kids all the time when media is not around. … He’s truly a tremendous person, and I’m proud to be friends with him, not just because he’s Saquon Barkley, just because the friend that he’s been for me since he got here. I’m proud of him, proud of his success, and he’s taught me a lot.”
Coach James Franklin agreed, saying Barkley is happier when his teammates score than when he scores.
“I’m very, very proud of him and his total development since he’s arrived on this campus,” Franklin said, “and that’s because of the hard work of a lot of people in our program. But most importantly, that’s because of Saquon Barkley wanting to be great in everything that he does. I’m really proud of him. blessed to have coached him.”