Saquon Barkley's Heisman Trophy candidacy took an impressive step Saturday as the star junior led No. 2-ranked Penn State to a 42-13 home win over rival Michigan.
Barkley, who was profiled in detail earlier this week at NFL.com, rushed for 108 yards on 15 carries and scored three touchdowns (two rushing, one receiving) in a game that further opened his Heisman window. The win also kept PSU (7-0) tied atop the ultra-deep Big Ten East, along with two more unbeaten in league play (Michigan State, Ohio State).
Barkley made a big play early and a big play late to bookend the performance, opening the scoring with a 69-yard touchdown run on his first carry, Penn State's second of the game. He took a direct snap and cut left to score untouched for an early 7-0 PSU lead. Barkley later put the score out of reach with a juggling 42-yard TD catch in the fourth quarter. He lined up in the slot on the play, drew a linebacker in coverage, and blew past linebacker Mike McCray to get open deep. Trace McSorley's pass was perfectly placed, and Barkley nearly dropped it at the 10 before gathering it in as he crossed the goal line. He became the first rusher in school history to amass 3,000 rushing yards and 1,000 receiving yards in a career, and has the most career TDs (42).
Still, it wasn't a flawless night for the star junior.
McSorley found Barkley wide open on a wheel route down the left sideline with 5:47 left in the half, but Barkley dropped an easily catchable pass for an incompletion. NFL.com draft analyst Chad Reuter named Barkley the top college player of the season's first half, after he rushed for 649 yards over the Nittany Lions' first six games. He now has 757 yards for the season.
With Michigan's defense keying heavily on Barkley, McSorley found his share of running room on option keepers, including a third-quarter touchdown run of 13 yards.
Barkley and the Nittany Lions will get another high-profile opponent next week with a road trip to Ohio State.