We set out to create a top-10 list of the best plays of Saquon Barkley’s career. Well, we soon realized that was impossible — there were too many.
So we decided to bump it up to 15.
Barkley put together one of the most dazzling careers in Penn State history, so there was no shortage of clips that made us oooh, ahhhh or drop our jaws. So, without further ado, grab some popcorn, bookmark this page and come back whenever you feel the need to relive the greatest plays from arguably the greatest running back in Penn State history:
15. 36-yard TD run against Ohio State (Oct. 28, 2017)
He sprinted straight up the middle, avoided a tackle, bounced right, offered some defenders a stutter step and bounced to the outside for a score. This run was the definition of smooth.
14. Displaying it all on a 55-yard TD run against Temple (Sept. 17, 2016)
How did he know to kick his feet up around the 19-yard line to avoid a diving tackle behind him? We have no idea.
13. Jump over Maryland defender behind LOS, wind up with 13-yard gain (Oct. 8, 2016)
This is your classic should-be-a-loss-but-winds-up-a-first-down Barkley play. Then a sophomore, Barkley caught the pitch about five yards behind the line of scrimmage, leaped over the head of a diving defender — then kept his balance, hugged the sideline and went for a 13-yard gain. This is what Barkley was best at: Turning something out of nothing.
12. Juggling 42-yard TD catch against Michigan (Oct. 21, 2017)
OK, maybe he shouldn’t have juggled it to begin with. And, OK, maybe it wasn’t one of his most exciting plays. But this is a trademark Barkley play. C’mon, when you saw “juggling,” you knew exactly what game this was from. Barkley’s focus and concentration were on display here. He’s a great receiver, and this one is just fun to watch.
11. 98-yard kickoff return for a TD against Indiana (Sept. 30, 2017)
Barkley didn’t waste any time, going the distance on the opening kickoff — just 14 seconds into the game. At the end of the return, the broadcaster shouted: “Are you kidding me?!” He started left, found a seam in the middle and ended up scoring a touchdown along the right sideline. His vision and speed were both on display here.
10. Shifty 81-yard TD run against Purdue (Oct. 29, 2016)
Oh, there’s nothing inside? Let’s just bounce outside. Oh, there’s not a lot of room outside down the right sideline? Let’s just take a small cut left — and then burst straight ahead for the score.
9. 97-yard kickoff return for a TD against Ohio State (Oct. 28, 2017)
First play, kickoff, return, touchdown. Does more really need to be said? OK — Barkley’s speed was really evident here. He found a lane, and he was just gone. This looked way too easy against a top-10 opponent. Penn State fans might just want to leave this one on rewind ... no need to watch the end of this game.
8. Making a name for himself with a Buffalo leap as a freshman (Sept. 12, 2015)
We gave this play extra weight because it’s what helped put Barkley on the map. Penn State nation didn’t yet know what Barkley was capable of, and this was one of the first carries of his career. (He had one carry entering the game and just 12 in this game.) We weren’t used to Barkley performing runs like this, so this was special. It was maybe our first glimpse of greatness.
7. Walk-off TD run against Minnesota in OT (Oct. 1, 2016)
This was an impressive little run. But this play has more to do with how important it was, rather than how many style points Barkley amassed during it. This gave Penn State the win and helped set its historic Big Ten championship season into motion. Look at the move he puts on the defender near the first-down marker, and tell us this play doesn’t belong in the top 15.
6. One-handed catch for a big gain against Indiana (Sept. 30, 2017)
Nothing to see here — just an overthrown screen pass. Wait ... nope ... Barkley plucked this one out of the air with one hand, then turned upfield for 36 yards after making several defenders miss.
5. I-believe-I-can-fly play against Illinois (Oct. 31, 2015)
Cue the R. Kelly music because this is the run that coach James Franklin dubbed the “I believe I can fly” play. Barkley leaped about five yards in the air for the touchdown and left one ESPN broadcaster saying, “Saquon Barkley — remember this name. Can he fly?” Any Barkley list that leaves this one off is not a respectable list.
4. Elusive 55-yard run against Iowa (Sept. 23, 2017)
This should have been a 10-yard gain. Should have. By our count, he escaped five tacklers. Maybe six? This is an underrated run that shows patience, vision and leads us to believe he spends the offseason training at Hogwarts.
3. Hurdling an Iowa defender for the first down (Sept. 23, 2017)
We essentially just could’ve used every other Barkley touch in this game to fill up our top-15 list. This was maybe the most memorable game of his career — and this play is one of his best. He took his old leaping trademark and then took it one step further. On third-and-6, he leaped over a defender, broke a tackle in the air, landed on his feet ... and kept running, for a first down no less.
2. Longest TD run in Fiesta Bowl history (Dec. 30, 2017)
The Fiesta Bowl has gone on just shy of 50 years. And, during that time, no one has had a longer rush in the game than Saquon Barkley did Saturday. His 92-yard TD run is sure to be a highlight that’s played during his NFL draft introduction. His speed was otherworldly.
1. National jaw-dropping 79-yard TD in Rose Bowl (Jan. 2, 2017)
If you took all the characteristics you admired most in Barkley and rolled them all together in one run, it’d be this one. Said one broadcaster: “This is Saquon Barkley in a nutshell in one play.” You bet it is. This is the play that made sure the nation wouldn’t be able to ignore him anymore. It was the best play by the best player in college football.