STATE COLLEGE, Pa. – Saquon Barkley said he "visualized" his goals coming into the 2017 season, but he couldn't have had any way of knowing he would be unable to get going in Penn State's rushing attack, especially over the last five games.
Barkley scored two touchdowns in Saturday's 35-6 victory over Rutgers but rushed for a season-low 35 yards, including minus-3 yards in the first half. In his last 10 halves of football, it marked the fifth time he had finished a half with negative yardage.
He has rushed for 142 yards on 49 carries in his last three games. Those aren't numbers that will appeal to Heisman Trophy voters as the balloting deadline draws near, but he does talk more about team than individual awards.
"Coming into the season, you have goals and you visualize what you want to do," he said after the game. "I visualized going undefeated. I visualized everything. But you can only control what you can control. We're 8-2 right now. We hold ourselves to such a high standard that everyone thinks it's a bad season. There's teams, multiple teams, that would beg and wish and dream to be in the position that we are in.
"We lost two games, but that's all in the past. The only thing you can really focus on is the last three games, doing what you can do to win those games. Right now, it's just coming in on Sunday, focusing on the film and moving on and getting ready for Nebraska" next Saturday.
Barkley said that he understands what opposing defenses are trying to do to stop him, and that he keeps encouraging his offensive line.
"I tell them it's kind of like a boxing match," said Barkley, an avid boxing fan. "Throw the jab, throw the jab. When they get lazy, hit them with a haymaker. Take the [3-yard gain], take the 4, sometimes even a negative-2, and when you get the chance, hit the big one.
"You've got to be patient. That's part of football and being a running back, just continue to be patient. I can still grow in that area of my game, and I'm going to continue to work at."
Barkley did break the Penn State record for career all-purpose yards on Saturday, picking up 85 yards to end the day with 5,055, breaking the mark of 5,045 held by Larry Johnson.
Rutgers head coach Chris Ash said he was "pretty proud" with his team's performance, despite giving up 35 points and being held to a near-standstill in the passing game.
"I am really pleased with the effort that our defense gave," Ash said. "Really, the difference in the game was their skill vs. our skill. We struggled to consistently cover their wide receivers down the field, and we struggled with our wide receivers against their [defensive backs]. Up front on both sides of the ball, I thought we did pretty well."
Barkley's first touchdown came two plays after the Nittany Lions connected on a 14-yard hook-and-lateral play. Trace McSorley threw a short pass to DaeSean Hamilton, who lateraled to Barkley. Barkley hurdled a tackler before being brought down at the 1.
"We've been practicing that for a few weeks, and I was actually surprised that we called it," Hamilton said. "But, yeah, it worked basically how we practiced it."
Bowen sits out
Linebacker Manny Bowen, the Nittany Lions' third-leading tackler, did not play because of what head coach James Franklin called "a violation of team rules." He was replaced in the lineup by senior Brandon Smith, who had 10 tackles in his first start of the season.