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 nine days left — is the No. 9 moment since Franklin took the head-coaching job.
No. 9 moment: Saquon Barkley’s 79-yard touchdown run in the Rose Bowl
For those watching at home, Chris Fowler’s heightened voice was the soundtrack to a memorable moment.
“Saquon Barkley in the clear,” Fowler bellowed on ABC’s broadcast of the Rose Bowl. “Still going. ... Saquon Barkley all the way to the end zone.”
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Now, for those in Pasadena, the gradually rising sound of the Penn State crowd and eerie silence in the Southern California sections were deafening.
Everyone watching — fans, coaches, players, media — were awe-struck in their own way. Penn State running back Saquon Barkley ripped off a 79-yard touchdown run, filled with shimmies, jump cuts, blazing speed and incalculable elusiveness.
It was a moment that you remember where you were when you saw it.
Outside of a certain blocked field goal returned for a touchdown, Barkley’s gallop was the most exciting play in James Franklin’s tenure.
Penn State trailed USC 27-21 at halftime of “The Granddaddy of Them All” — but that deficit didn’t last long. On the Nittany Lions’ first snap of the third quarter, Barkley housed it.
The running back secured the handoff from Trace McSorley, moved right and stiff-armed USC linebacker Uchenna Nwosu — avoiding a takedown behind the line of scrimmage. Then Barkley stutter-stepped and ran around diving defensive back Marvell Tell III and through Ajene Harris’ arm tackle.
The Coplay native had some space to work with.
Barkley kicked it into high gear for 10 yards and then put on the skates, cutting back to the middle of field and causing defensive backs Jack Jones and Chris Hawkins to totally lose their footing.
In the blink of an eye, Barkley was in the clear.
With wide receiver Chris Godwin blocking, Barkley went from juking out USC defenders at Penn State’s own 40-yard line to having nothing but green ahead of him at midfield.
The back used his 4.3 speed to go 50 yards untouched, gliding into the end zone as Penn State fans at the Rose Bowl erupted.
Trojan fans could do nothing but quietly shake their heads. Penn State supporters waved their white pom-poms, and the Penn State coaching staff celebrated.
In Fowler’s words, Barkley’s run was “electric” — and it’s impossible to argue with that.