Penn State's Saquon Barkley tuning out hype, looking to do more

Penn State's Saquon Barkley tuning out hype, looking to do more

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- Sometimes Joe Moorhead will call a play and then turn to his players and colleagues on the sideline to guarantee it'll go for a touchdown.

It's one of the ways Penn State's offensive coordinator like to lift his players' spirits. His predictions came true a lot last season. A play like Saquon Barkley's blistering, career-best 81-yard touchdown against Purdue come to Moorhead's mind.

"It's about instilling confidence in your players that any play you call has the opportunity to go the distance," Moorhead said. "When you hand the ball off to 26, you stand a chance to be right more often than not."

Barkley's dazzling running style complete with jukes, jumps and spins has propelled him for 3,209 all-purpose yards and 30 touchdowns in two seasons and vaulted him into preseason Heisman Trophy discussions. It's also why Moorhead plans to use his star back to wear down and saw up defenses even more this fall.

That's a bad prospect for Penn State's opponents who've been worn down and sawed up by Barkley's ability to break tackles, find daylight and pull away. It might be worse for them. Barkley's bigger, stronger and faster thanks to a productive offseason.

"Our coaching staff and our strength staff did a really good job pushing me," Barkley said. "I gained weight this year. I'm at 230 now. I feel faster. I ran a faster 40 than I did last year in the past. That's something I wanted to really add to my game because I feel like, when you do the weight room, it really translates to the football field."

Videos from inside the team's weight room of Barkley squatting nearly 500 pounds went viral last year. They were joined by clips of him power cleaning 405 pounds in January. In winter workouts he ran a hand-timed 4.33 in the 40 and in July he wowed spectators at a team charity event with 30 bench press reps of 225 pounds.

Those measure up favorably to numbers posted at the most recent NFL Combine. Oklahoma's Samaje Perine was the lone running back to bench 30 reps and Barkley's 4.33 would've been the fourth-best 40 time. Surely, the option of Barkley foregoing his final season at Penn State to jump to the NFL will loom throughout the season.

He was asked about it at the team's media day on Saturday.

"I have not made a decision yet," Barkley said. "I'm really just focusing on the season and focusing day by day. Right now my biggest focus is on camp."

Instead of thinking about the NFL, or the Heisman, which only one Nittany Lions player -- John Cappalletti in 1973 -- has won, Barkley has taken a similar approach to the last offseason when he spent time watching some of college football's other top backs on film.

Barkley, who caught four of his five receiving touchdowns last season, primarily wants to play a bigger role in the passing game. He's drilled with the team's top wideout and smoothest route-runner DaeSean Hamilton to learn new techniques.

"I feel that, and Coach (James) Franklin will agree, that I'm capable of being lined up in the slot, being able to run routes," Barkley said. "I do feel like I'm capable to do a lot with the ball in my hand in space, and I just want to continue to grow in that area."

But as Barkley's highlight reel has grown, he's remained grounded. Staying humble despite the expectations and hype that have swirled around him has endeared Barkley to his teammates.

When the Nittany Lions have strolled through town to meet fans and distribute posters each of the last two summers, Barkley has drawn the biggest crowd, huddles of kids and adults all with markers intent on getting No. 26's autograph.

"Since that hurdle in the Buffalo game, there's been a buzz about him," Franklin said. "And he's handled it really well, better than I would have ever handled it at that age. There's no doubt about it. And I think that's where he kind of has earned everybody's respect."

Penn State commit arrested for armed robbery of Wawa

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AP Images

Penn State commit arrested for armed robbery of Wawa

This post appeared on College Football Talk on Saturday

Or will that be former Penn State recruit?

According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, Isheem Young was one of three individuals arrested Friday in connection with the armed robbery of a Wawa convenience store in South Philadelphia this past summer. One of the two alleged accomplices is Young’s brother, the manager of the store that was robbed, while the other an unnamed getaway driver.

The Inquirer reports that the 18-year-old Young is facing charges of robbery, conspiracy, firearms violations and related offenses. He is currently being held in lieu of a $150,000 bond.

It’s alleged that Young and his partners in crime made off with $13,600 in cash from the store’s safe. A police report stated that Young entered the store armed with a black revolver and committed the robbery.

Young committed to play his college football at Penn State in mid-July; two weeks later is when he allegedly committed the crime. He was 17 years old when the incident happened.

A four-star 2018 recruit, he’s rated as the No. 12 safety in the country, the No. 5 player at any position in the state of Pennsylvania and the No. 151 player overall on 247Sports.com‘s composite board.

The new early-signing period for college football, incidentally, kicks off in less than three weeks.

Penn State can't get by Khalil Iverson, Wisconsin

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USA Today Images

Penn State can't get by Khalil Iverson, Wisconsin

BOX SCORE

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- The last 48 hours weren't easy for the Wisconsin Badgers who had all day Sunday plus a long flight into Happy Valley on Monday to stew over their worst home loss in nearly a decade.

Penn State nearly extended that misery, but a potential go-ahead 3-pointer by Tony Carr bounced off the rim with two seconds to play and the Badgers held on for a 64-63 win.

"It's nice to see a bounce back and look like a Wisconsin team should look," Badgers coach Greg Gard said.

Khalil Iverson scored 14 of his 16 points in the first half, Nate Reuvers added 11 points and Ethan Happ grabbed 10 rebounds for the Badgers (4-5, 1-1 Big Ten), who snapped a two-game losing streak.

Mike Watkins scored a career-high 22 points for the Nittany Lions (7-3, 1-1 Big Ten) who battled back from a 17-point deficit with 9:40 to play. Carr added 16 points and Shep Garner made 13 for the Nittany Lions who were trying for their first 2-0 start in conference play since 2007.

Penn State played its third game, and first at home, in six days and struggled to shoot the ball for most of the night. The Nittany Lions made just 9 of 26 field goals in the first half, trailed 31-25 at halftime and were just 3-for-21 over the final 1:50 of the first and the first 10 minutes of the second.

"We dug a little deeper because we looked very sluggish in the first half," Penn State coach Patrick Chambers said.

The Badgers led 51-36 with 9:40 to play, but Garner drained back-to-back jumpers shortly thereafter to spark a 21-9 run that cut Wisconsin's lead to 60-57 with 1:53 left.

A pair of Garner free throws with less than a minute to play made it a one-point game before the teams traded free throws over the final 43 seconds. D'Mitrik Trice closed it out at the line on 4-of-4 shooting for the Badgers.

"I knew we'd have to be really dialed-in and gritty and persevere," Gard said. "I expected the whole game to be like the last four minutes and fortunately we were able to make enough plays and get enough stops to hang on."

Built Ford tough
Carr got his shot after forward Aleem Ford bounced the game's final free throw off the rim on the other end of the floor. He didn't get another chance thanks in part to Ford's hustle to get back on defense.

When Carr's shot rang off the rim, it took a bounce toward a Penn State player in the corner. Ford grabbed hold of the ball to force a jump ball and prevent the Nittany Lions from getting any kind of chance.

Ford's late recovery came in the absence of usual post presences Happ and Davison, who both had fouled out.

"He really hustled for that loose ball," Gard said. "There were a lot of winning plays, so to speak that were made. "We need to make better decisions down the stretch so that it doesn't get to that point."

Trusting Carr
Chambers had no issue with Carr, who was just 5-for-22 from the field, pulling up for the final 3-pointer even though Penn State's crafty point guard might've had room toward the hoop.

The clock was ticking and Chambers trusts his leading scorer who entered the game with 20.6 points per game, 39 assists and 19-for-32 from 3-point range.

"Whatever Tony thought," Chambers said. "I'm not in his vision. I'm on the sideline. I don't know what he saw but he's a heck of a player and he makes really good decisions. So I'm going to trust that decision."

Tough stats to swallow
Wisconsin's bench chipped in 25 points to Penn State's one.

Meanwhile, of Penn State's 29 misses, 11 were layups that didn't fall.

The big picture
Wisconsin: The Badgers are the only team to have played four ranked opponents so far and were tied or within a basket with two minutes left in three of those games. They looked better than their record inside the Bryce Jordan Center, matching Penn State's physical play throughout and frustrating Penn State's shooters all night.

Penn State: The Nittany Lions continue to play solid defense, but those stingy efforts will be for nothing if Penn State's shooters continue to miss like they did early and midway through against the Badgers. Penn State finished 26 for 50 from the floor.

Up next
Wisconsin concludes a three-day trip through the Keystone State at Temple (4-2) on Wednesday.

Penn State hosts George Washington (4-4) on Saturday.