STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — Plenty of teams have been burned by Penn State running back Saquon Barkley in his three seasons in Happy Valley.
Nebraska might’ve been the last at Beaver Stadium.
Penn State’s Heisman Trophy candidate will wait until after the season to make a decision on his future. He’ll be coveted by NFL general managers if he decides to skip his senior season to turn pro.
The Huskers won’t miss seeing him. They missed chances to tackle him a lot Saturday.
Barkley set a program record with 39 career touchdowns and scored three of them against a Nebraska defense that allowed him to churn out 208 of his 224 total yards in the first half.
“He’s a heck of a talent and he runs hard, he’s fast, he’s the whole package,” Nebraska linebacker Chris Weber said. “He makes their offense go.”
After Penn State’s offense finished with 609 total yards, the Nittany Lions' do-it-all star wasn’t willing to talk at length about his impending decision.
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“To be honest, I’m not really thinking about the future right now,” Barkley said to a crowd of at least 30 reporters who gathered around him.
Barkley usually draws a crowd and does a good job eluding them. He took his opening carry 65 yards around the right side of Nebraska’s defense to give Penn State a 7-0 lead.
He added a 1-yard score that gave Penn State the lead for good in the second quarter, then passed Lydell Mitchell with his 39th career touchdown on an 8-yard run up the middle later in the second.
“Just us getting out of our run fits, and they started swinging the ball out and we couldn’t get off blocks and make the tackle on the edges there,” Weber said of Barkley, who added six catches for 66 yards. “It just snowballed. We regrouped at halftime and played better.”
It was a much-needed bounce-back game for Barkley. He’d been held to 63 rushing yards or less in each of his past three games. Penn State was 1-2 in that span.
It started off with him yielding the starting kick return spot to Brandon Polk. Barkley had been dynamic in that role this season with two return touchdowns.
He wasn’t miffed by his exclusion from special teams. Instead, he was happy Polk would get a shot to show off his own speed.
“I think you guys have heard us talk about Saquon,” Penn State coach James Franklin said. “Everybody talks about the yards and the touchdowns and the hurdles and those types of things. But for the people that have gotten to know Saquon Barkley, he’s a better person.”