El­liott, Barkley square off as Giants, Cow­boys eye 1st win

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - SPORTS - By Schuyler Dixon

Ezekiel El­liott and Saquon Barkley are friends from their days as foes at Ohio State and Penn State.

Now that they’re set to share the field for the first time as pros, the run­ning back of the Dal­las Cow­boys re­mem­bers his only col­lege en­counter with Barkley, the promis­ing rookie of the New York Giants.

To wit, the match­ing hur­dle plays that El­liott re­calls when Barkley was a fresh­man for the Nit­tany Lions and out­gained the reign­ing of­fen­sive MVP from the first cham­pi­onship game in the four-team play­off era a sea­son ear­lier. El­liott’s Buck­eyes got the big­ger prize, a 38-10 win.

“I went out and hur­dled a guy and lit­er­ally the next drive he comes back and hur-

dles one of our guys,” El­liott said. “That was pretty cool to me just to see him come back and do the same thing.”

Just as in that sce­nario three years ago, El­liott is the es­tab­lished star af­ter lead­ing the NFL in rush­ing as a rookie in 2016, and Barkley is the first-year up­start. As for the big­ger prize Sun­day night, the NFC East ri­vals need the win with both com­ing off sea­son-open­ing losses.

“We don’t worry about that,” first-year Giants coach Pat Shur­mur said. “That’s fun for ev­ery­body to talk about out­side the build­ing. We didn’t do enough in the first game to win the game, and we’re work­ing to do what we can to win this next one. Pe­riod. End of story.”

It could be just the start of the El­liott-Barkley story. Friends since that night in Colum­bus, Ohio, af­ter Barkley rushed for 194 yards while El­liott had 153 yards and a touch­down, they are now among the most im­por­tant pieces for sto­ried fran­chises try­ing to get back to the Su­per Bowl.

And each was the first run­ning back taken in his draft: El­liott fourth over­all in 2016 and Barkley at No. 2 this year.

“They’re pow­er­fully built guys,” Shur­mur said. “When I say ‘col­li­sion bal­ance,’ in the hole, guys bounc­ing off, and they can keep their bal­ance. (El­liott’s) pro­duc­tion in his first two years had noth­ing to do with us se­lect­ing Saquon, but they’re sim­i­lar in a lot of ways.”

Things to con­sider as these ri­vals meet within the first two weeks of the sea­son for the sixth time in seven years:

Eyes On The Run­ners

The Cow­boys need to es­tab­lish El­liott ear­lier than they did in a 16-8 loss to Carolina, but will need more help from a pass­ing game still try­ing to fig­ure out life af­ter Ja­son Wit­ten and Dez Bryant.

The Giants wouldn’t mind get­ting more from Barkley, even though a 68yard touch­down in a 20-15 loss to Jack­sonville made him the fran­chise’s first to de­but with a 100-yard rush­ing game (106). Now he’ll try to be the first Giants rookie since Ed­die Price in 1950 with con­sec­u­tive 100-yard out­ings.

Don’t For­get The Block­ing

There are ques­tions up front for both teams com­ing out of the open­ers. Giants right tackle Ereck Flow­ers drew trip­ping and hold­ing penal­ties on the first se­ries af­ter an off­sea­son move from the left side. Free agent ad­di­tion Nate Solder had a hold­ing penalty at left tackle.

The Cow­boys are still ad­just­ing to Joe Looney at cen­ter with four-time Pro Bowler Travis Fred­er­ick out in­def­i­nitely with a nerve dis­or­der. Rookie left guard Con­nor Wil­liams was beaten for two sacks. And one of the main­stays, five-time Pro Bowl left tackle Ty­ron Smith, had a pair of penal­ties.

Beck­ham’s Back

In his first game since an an­kle in­jury 11 months ago and since sign­ing $95, five-year ex­ten­sion, Odell Beck­ham Jr. had 11 catches for 111 yards against the Jaguars.

BILL KOSTROUN — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Giants run­ning back Saquon Barkley cel­e­brates af­ter rush­ing 68 yards for a touch­down dur­ing sea­sonopen­ing loss to Jaguars last Sun­day.

MIKE MCCARN — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS FILE

Cow­boys’ Ezekiel El­liott is tack­led by Panthers’ Mario Ad­di­son dur­ing the first half of Dal­las’ sea­son-open­ing loss to Carolina last Sun­day.

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