After a 52-point blowout in which he racked up more than 200 yards and two touchdowns, Saquon Barkley was disappointed in himself.
The star running back thought he should’ve had a third.
“I’ve got to improve,” Barkley said Saturday afternoon with a frustrated deep breath. “I’ve got to find a way to get in the end zone. A stiff arm, be more aware of the spacing on the field, keep my feet inbounds and get in the end zone.”
The Heisman Trophy candidate — and obvious perfectionist — might beat himself up over not scoring on his 80-yard scamper, where he stepped out on the 7, but Barkley turned in yet another sensational performance in Penn State’s season-opening 52-0 win over Akron, ripping the Zips to shreds.
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After a brilliant Rose Bowl, the junior hung 226 total yards — 172 rushing, 54 receiving — on Akron. He did so in 17 touches, averaging 13.3 yards every time he had the ball.
“There’s no better feeling than seeing Saquon loose in the open,” senior guard Brendan Mahon said with a wide smile. “That’s the greatest view you can see: the 26.”
Barkley’s day actually started off slow. He didn’t carry the ball until Penn State’s 10th play, getting completely shut out on the Nittany Lions’ first drive.
But on Penn State’s second series, Joe Moorhead unleashed the Big Ten’s best back. On a 10-play scoring drive, Barkley had three rushing attempts and two receptions.
And boy was his second grab a doozy. On 3rd-and-10 with Penn State sitting at Akron’s 30-yard line, Barkley caught a five-yard checkdown and went to work — cutting back three times, avoiding five Zips and hurdling a sixth for the first down.
“I knew it was 3rd-and-10,” Barkley said. “I needed to get vertical and get the first down.”
He definitely got vertical, barreling seven yards past the sticks.
That was Barkley’s weekly mind-blowing play; what came next was — oddly enough — something everyone’s seen Barkley do before.
Early in the second quarter, Barkley bolted through the heart of Akron’s defense untouched, galloping from the Penn State 13-yard line all the way to the house for what looked like an 87-yard touchdown.
“As I handed it off, I was able to see the sea part,” quarterback Trace McSorley said. “He shot out of a cannon and was rolling.”
Penn State linebacker Jarvis Miller, who watched from the sideline, added: “I saw the open hole and said, ‘Oh that’s six.’ I didn’t even look. He’s gone.”
Barkley was gone, but he did step out of bounds. The play — which wasn’t reviewable, according to a still-somewhat-confused James Franklin — was an 80-yard dash, not 87.
Of course, Barkley was upset he didn’t score.
“I’m not happy about it,” the back said. “That could be the difference in a big game.”
But he made up for it with a couple touchdowns later that quarter — a 3-yard burst toward the goal-line and a 30-yarder basically around the Akron defense.
Like McSorley and the rest of the first-team offense, Barkley was pulled after the third quarter.
The back didn’t have anything else to prove against the Zips.
But 226 total yards in three quarters was stunning nonetheless — and a good first impression on 2017 Heisman voters.