Birthday Boy: The 20 Best Moments of Saquon Barkley's 2016-17 Sophomore Season

By Mike Treb on February 9, 2017 at 11:21 am
Penn State Nittany Lions running back Saquon Barkley (26) celebrates his touchdown with tight end Mike Gesicki (88) during the second quarter against the USC Trojans of the 2017 Rose Bowl game at Rose Bowl.
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Reigning Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year Saquon Barkley turned 20 years old on Thursday, so it's highly appropriate to review the 20 best moments from the sophomore's 2016-2017 season.

Picking 20 moments for the 2017 Heisman hopeful was not easy. There were incredible runs, feats of strength, eye-rubbing leaps and milestones met.

Let's get on with the fun.

20. Flea Flicker

Barkley played a key role in one of Penn State's most memorable plays of the year: a Trace McSorley bomb to DaeSean Hamilton against Indiana. The threat of Barkley (which you'll see plenty in this piece) made it all work. Good toss back, too!

19. Always a Great Teammate

Throughout his short tenure in Happy Valley, Barkley has shown he's an incredible teammate. Cheering for his fellow running backs and celebrating big plays when he's not in. Look at Barkley's excitement for true freshman running back Miles Sanders, who scored his first career touchdown against Maryland.

18. Surpassing 1,000 and 2,000

In an early November night game, Penn State walloped the Iowa Hawkeyes. Barkley was a key weapon in that walloping, as he went past 1,000 yards on the year. He also blew past the 2,000-yard mark for his career.

17. Barkley Shake-and-Bake

Purdue didn't have much of a chance once Penn State decided to stop messing around in West Lafayette. Barkley was a part of that effort on this catch and run that later set up his own rushing touchdown. Oh, and it wasn't even close to being his best play against the Boilermakers.

16. One Cut and Bye

Those are pretty much the basics. Barkley hit the hole, made a cut and it was over. Maryland was left watching the back of his blue jersey.

15. Tupac???

In this October interview with BTN's Mike Hall, Barkley reveals the details behind that one time HIS FATHER WANTED TO NAME HIM AFTER TUPAC SHAKUR.

14. Temple Touchdown

BTN's Eric Collins unknowingly set it up. Penn State was struggling against Temple in mid-September. The Lions were up 27-24 in the fourth quarter and looking to finish the Owls when Collins said, "Barkley has not had a big day running the football. He's got it, oh his best run of the day, he's still going! Barkley! Touchdown!" Penn State put 'em away. 

13. Purdue Pete Gets Pissed About 81 Yards

Alright, we don't know if Pete got mad. Probably, though. Barkley broke the Boilermakers with an 81-yard touchdown. Eighty-one yards.

12. Surging Through Southern Cal

Barkley waltzes (OK, a fast walk? A brisk stroll?) through the Trojan defense in the Rose Bowl. The 24-yard touchdown brought Penn State back from the dead and started a surge that ended in the best game ever in the history of The Granddaddy of Them All.

11. Pitt Wheel

Barkley busted out the wheel route against Pitt in what ended up as a 42-39 shootout loss. No word on if the Penn State staff will make a keychain charm for that play.

10. Iowa Airborne Barrel Roll

In the same game where he crossed the 1,000-yard mark on the season, Barkley flipped over a defender with the grace of, well, the Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year. Bonus points for Matt Millen shoehorning in a reference to Coplay, Pa., Barkley's hometown.

9. Five Touchdowns

Barkley accounted for five -- five -- touchdowns against Pitt. This 2-yard banger was his final of the game.

8. Hawkeye Vapor

Barkley runs through, essentially, the entire Iowa defense on his way to the end zone. Note the very-good cornerback Desmond King and how helpless he looks against the sophomore sensation at the end of the run. Beaver Stadium exploded.

7. Saquon Springs One Against the Spartans

Tussling with Michigan State in a game they had to win to play in the Big Ten Championship (thanks, Ohio State!), Barkley got Penn State on track with this incredible leap into the end zone. Watch his legs as he uncoils from the 3-yard line and into the end zone. *Ric Flair noises*

6. Turtle Power

This play didn't result in a touchdown. It wasn't even that long of a gain. However, it remains a wonderful play for the power and agility shown in leaping over a Maryland defender running sideline-to-sideline. Heavens...

5. That Time He Cleaned 390 Pounds

Barkley broke a program record last March by cleaning 390 pounds. That feat started some concern-trolling by some who wondered if Barkley would get "too big" to be an effective running back. LOL.

4. Dusting Minnesota in Overtime

The game that set Penn State on its path to Pasadena almost didn't go the Nittany Lions' way. Until Barkley sent the team and fans home happy with his overtime-winning scamper.

3. Lions Den Drill

The slow-mo. The juke. The jump cut. The absurdity of it all. The teammate celebration. Barkley's moves in the Lions Den drill from August camp set the internet abuzz and put everyone on notice that it was going to be a helluva year from No. 26.

2. The Wheel Route

You know which one we're talking about. That one. From the Wizard of Camelot. In the Big Ten Championship Game. Chills.


1. The Rose Bowl

What else can you say about Barkley's mind-boggling blast through USC's defense in the 2017 Rose Bowl? Penn State lost a heartbreaker, but Barkley had hearts thumping out of their chests around the nation when he broke this run.

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