We’re counting down the days until kickoff. So, every day, we’ll try to make that time tick by just a little faster by also counting down the top 30 moments of James Franklin’s tenure so far. Up next — with 12 days left — is the No. 12 moment since Franklin took the head-coaching job.
No. 12 moment: Saquon Barkley believes he can fly
Buffalo safety Ryan Williamson lowered his right shoulder, trying to take out his opponent’s legs — and Saquon Barkley made him look silly.
Seven games later, Illinois defensive back V’Angelo Bentley closed in on Barkley. Instead of going down, the back defied gravity.
Barkley broke out with more than 1,000 rushing yards as a freshman, but what put him on the map — what drew the “oohs” and “ahhs” — was his willingness to leave his feet.
Over the past two years, Barkley has jumped over plenty of players. But the hurdle against Buffalo was a stunning first impression at Beaver Stadium, and his leap against Illinois was arguably the most mind-bending moment in James Franklin’s tenure at Penn State.
On Sept. 12, 2015, Barkley introduced himself to Nittany Lion fans. After one carry in a season-opening road loss at Temple, the then-freshman tallied 115 rushing yards in his first action at Beaver Stadium.
Barkley gained 20 of those yards in a stellar display of athleticism. In the fourth quarter of a game Penn State only led 13-7, Barkley jolted the offense — hurdling Williamson on a near-touchdown run.
Thousands of Beaver Stadium patrons, covered by ponchos, had reason to stand up and cheer. They witnessed the first of many crazy plays by Barkley.
Later in the season, they’d be treated to another.
On Oct. 31, 2015, Barkley took a direct snap from Illinois’ 13-yard line in the Wildcat. He bounced out to the right and went airborne.
Barkley jumped over Bentley, who was trying to take out his legs, and barreled through two other Illinois defenders. The Coplay native took on three players and landed in the end zone.
He lost his left shoe in the process, but that didn’t stop Barkley from celebrating. The back broke Twitter and the Illini’s hopes with one leap.
Barkley believed he could fly — and made Penn State fans believe, too.