Penn State Notebook: Barkley Wants To Play In Bowl
STATE COLLEGE — Maybe, this was his last game at Beaver Stadium. Saquon Barkley didn’t make that clear.
But after he led Penn State to a convincing 56-44 win over Nebraska on Saturday at Beaver Stadium, he did make one thing obvious: Wherever Penn State is playing this postseason, he’ll be on the field.
Bucking the recent trend of star NFL prospects sitting out bowl games to guard against injury heading into the offseason, Penn State’s junior running back announced he planned to play for the Nittany Lions in a bowl game. Even in the likelihood a national championship wouldn’t be on the line.
“Let me clear that up,” Barkley said, beginning a four-minute explanation. “It’s important to me because I love football. To be really honest, it’s for my teammates. If my teammates came out and said, ‘Don’t play. We don’t need you. You don’t need to,’ I probably wouldn’t. At the end of the day, I play for my teammates. I play for my brothers. I play for my family, too, and I know that’s something they would love for me to do.”
During the summer, Barkley told Sports Illustrated that he understood the decisions running backs like LSU’s Leonard Fournette and Stanford’s Christian McCaffrey made last year when they opted to sit out their teams’ bowl games to prevent injuries they played through during the regular season from being exacerbated in an extra game that held no championship meaning.
For his part, Barkley said he felt as if the article hinted that he, too, would sit out a game outside of the College Football Playoff, even though he strongly insisted he never said he would.
“I’m different from Leonard Fournette and Christian McCaffrey and those types of guys,” he said. “Our situations are different. I’m really healthy right now, thank God. Leonard Fournette had a banged-up ankle. Christian McCaffrey, at the time, was banged up, too. The decisions they made were the correct decisions for them, and you have to respect that. ... I’m not going to go out and bash on those guys in the past, because everyone is in different positions.”
Barkley said he understood the national attention placed on such decisions, but he added that he didn’t base his decision on simply taking a contrarian position on the debate. It’s an individual, personal choice, he said.
“Some people probably won’t play, and you have to respect their decisions,” Barkley concluded. “But me, I will play.”
Penn State scored 56 points on a rainy, dreary day at Beaver Stadium. It needed most of them.
The 44 points Nebraska wound up scoring — 21 of which came against the backup defensive players after Penn State ran out to a 32-point lead in the fourth quarter — were the most the Nittany Lions have ever allowed in a game at Beaver Stadium.
“I was proud of our team and coaches for just staying at it,” Nebraska head coach Mike Riley said. “The guys kept competing to get stops and score some points.”
Problem was, they couldn’t stop Penn State when it mattered.
The 609 yards Penn State gained Saturday were the most in a game for the Nittany Lions since gaining 661 against Rutgers in 1995.
Penn State capped its second consecutive unbeaten season at Beaver Stadium, and that’s somewhat of a rarity, even in Happy Valley.
The last time the Nittany Lions went two full seasons without a loss at home? Try 1985 and 1986. The Nittany Lions only lost one game those two seasons, in the 1986 Orange Bowl to No. 3 Oklahoma.
The last back-to-back unbeaten seasons at home before that? It came in 1972 and 1973.
The last two weeks aren’t going to be remembered fondly in the heartland.
Even if many Cornhuskers fans probably have never experienced two games quite like them.
Nebraska has allowed 110 the last two weeks in losses to Minnesota and the Nittany Lions. The last time Nebraska allowed 50 points or more in consecutive games: Oct. 6 and 13, 1945, against Minnesota and Indiana.
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