Barkley’s likely farewell a good one

ASSOCIATED PRESS Penn State running back Saquon Barkley (26) leaps over Washington defensive back Myles Bryant (5) during the second half of the Fiesta Bowl Saturday in Glendale, Ariz.

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Saquon Barkley loved racing 92 yards for an electrifying touchdown Satur­day during Penn State’s 35-28 victory over Washington in the Fiesta Bowl.

Now, any running back enjoys scoring a touchdown. But for Barkley, this one was really special.

“You want to know why I was really happy?” he said with a big smile. “Because all week we heard about how good this rush defense was. … They averaged (giving up) 96 rushing yards a game, and we got 92 on one play.

“That’s why I was happy. I was tired of hearing all the talk.”

Some of Washington’s players were also seen mocking Barkley’s touchdown celebration when they scored, and that didn’t sit well, either.

“At the end of the day, I get the last laugh,” Barkley said.

Virtually everyone expects Barkley, a junior, to give up his final season of college eligibility to enter the NFL draft. He’s a superstar prospect, rated by several experts as the best player available in the draft, and if Saturday was indeed his final game at PSU, he certainly went out in style.

The 92-yard run tied the longest ever by a Nittany Lion (previously done by Blair Thomas and Bill Belton), and it was the longest run in Fiesta Bowl history.

“I knew I was gone when the linebacker looked — we caught him peeking when he got to the line of scrimmage — I knew I was going to be able to outrun him,” Barkley said.

Barkley finished the day with 137 yards rushing and two TDs on 18 carries, plus he caught a team-high seven passes for 38 yards. He never considered skipping the bowl game to avoid risking injury, and his 25 offensive touches were tied for his second most all season (he had 40 against Iowa).

Barkley has not yet confirmed that he will enter the NFL draft early, and after the game he gave no timeline for when he will make an announcement.

“Whenever it slaps me in the back of the head,” he said. “It could be (today), it could be three days, it could be four, it could be the last day to make that decision.

“A lot of people think it’s an easy decision because you’re able to play football in the NFL and play your dream and make money and be able to support your family. But this place is special to me, and I’m kind of torn in between. I know I have the right people surrounding me and will help me make that decision.”

Barkley has received an enormous amount of attention all season because of his college success and NFL potential, and he was the Heisman Trophy frontrunner halfway through the year before ultimately finishing fourth.

“This whole experience has been a blessing,” he said of his PSU career. “These three years have been amazing. I’ve been able to meet some special people, be surrounded by special guys, make friendships that will last forever.”

The looming NFL decision has been hard, he admitted — “I’m not going to lie; I’m human,” he said — but having so much support around him from teammates and family has helped make things easier.

“I’m only 20 years old, and it’s all right there in front of me,” Barkley said. “But these guys have definitely kept me humble and kept my head on straight.”