Penn State run­ning back 'fine' for Big 10 ti­tle game

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - SPORTS - By Travis John­son

Penn State run­ning back Saquon Barkley hasn’t been able to fin­ish the last two games but said Mon­day he ex­pects to play Satur­day in the Big Ten cham­pi­onship against Wis­con­sin.

Penn State run­ning back Saquon Barkley hasn’t been able to fin­ish the last two games but said Mon­day he ex­pects to play Satur­day in the Big Ten cham­pi­onship against Wis­con­sin.

“I’m feel­ing fine, feel­ing re­ally good,” Barkley said Mon­day. “Get­ting treat­ment, tak­ing it dayby-day and just try­ing to get ready for the game this week­end.”

Barkley was forced from No. 8 Penn State’s game against Rut­gers af­ter a hel­met-to-hel­met hit and left Satur­day against Michi­gan State fa­vor­ing his right leg. The Nit­tany Li­ons (102, 8-1 Big Ten, No. 7 CFP) were com­fort­ably ahead in both games when Barkley was hurt in the third quar­ters and used a com­mit­tee of run­ning backs to fin­ish those games.

They’d like to be able to turn to their play­mak­ing star against the No. 6 Badgers (10-2, 7-2 Big Ten, No. 6 CFP) and their nearly im­pen­e­tra­ble de­fense as both teams chase berths in the Col­lege Foot­ball Play­offs.

“We had a lot of suc­cess on Satur­day with those other backs in the back­field but ob­vi­ously we all know Saquon is a spe­cial player,” Penn State coach James Franklin said.

Barkley has ac­counted for 1,083 to­tal yards and 10 touch­downs dur­ing Penn State’s eight-game win­ning streak but has been held to un­der 100 yards rush­ing in each of the last three games.

In that span, In­di­ana and Michi­gan State sold out to stop him and held Barkley to less than 2 yards per carry.

An­dre Robin­son, Miles San­ders and Mark Allen have helped change the pace and have tried to al­le­vi­ate pres­sure on Barkley. They’ve com­bined for 182 yards on 28 car­ries and Robin­son has scored twice over the last three games.

“Know­ing that we have four guys who can come in and be suc­cess­ful and be re­ally good play­ers, ex­e­cute our of­fense just as well as Saquon, it gives the rest of the of­fense con­fi­dence,” quar­ter­back Trace McSor­ley said.

Franklin said he ex­pects Barkley would be able to prac­tice this week, though hinted the run­ning back’s health would be closely mon­i­tored by team train­ers this week.

The sopho­more, who burst onto the scene by hur­dling de­fend­ers for big gains in his first few games as a true fresh­man, has 56 more touches than he did last sea­son and has han­dled 75 per­cent of the team’s car­ries and nearly all pass pro­tec­tion for run­ning backs. Al­though many of those car­ries have re­sulted in big plays, Barkley has been bot­tled up be­hind the line of scrim­mage more than a hand­ful of times as de­fend­ers have keyed on the mesh point on zone-read runs.

It hasn’t de­terred him, and Barkley has said he’s learned to be pa­tient in set­tling for the yards he can get when de­fenses fo­cus on him. Wis­con­sin is among the best when it comes to stop­ping the run. The Badgers are third na­tion­ally, al­low­ing just over 100 yards and 13 points per game.

Barkley’s aware of the num­bers and the phys­i­cal­ity that awaits.

“They’ve got a bunch of studs over there,” Barkley said.

“It’s go­ing to be a re­ally tough game, a phys­i­cal game, a Big Ten game so I’m go­ing to come out ready for it.”

More AP col­lege foot­ball: http://col­legefoot­ball. ap.org and http://twit­ter. com/AP—Top25

DAR­RON CUM­MINGS — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Penn State run­ning back Saquon Barkley runs against In­di­ana de­fen­sive back Chase Du­tra dur­ing the sec­ond half Satur­day in Bloom­ing­ton, Ind. Penn State de­feated In­di­ana 45-31.

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