When Penn State trailed Wisconsin 28-7 in the Big Ten Championship, a lot of television viewers probably thought the game was over.
Well, it wasn’t. The Nittany Lions stormed back, outscoring the Badgers 31-3 the rest of the way to win 38-31.
“I just felt like when we got down – and Wisconsin was executing, they were playing really good football – (but) we weren’t really doing our jobs on both sides of the ball,” Penn State running back Saquon Barkley said on CBS Sports Radio’s The Doug Gottlieb Show. “It wasn’t because of hype, and we weren’t overwhelmed. It kind of just happens. Sometimes a team comes out a little more ready than we were. But we were able to regroup. We didn’t panic. We’ve been like that all year. We’ve been in that situation a couple times this year, and we knew to take every opportunity one at a time and come back and win the game.”
Barkley had 103 total yards and two touchdowns (one rushing, one receiving) in the win, which moved Penn State from No. 7 to No. 5 in the rankings. Washington, however, got the fourth and final playoff spot.
“If it’s meant to be, it’s meant to be,” Barkley said, explaining the team’s mindset while watching the selection show Saturday. “Whatever opportunity we get, we’re going to be grateful for and we’re going to take advantage of it.”
That opportunity is the Rose Bowl. Penn State (11-2) will face No. 9 USC (9-3) on Jan. 2 at 5 p.m. ET. Barkley said that his team was sad to miss the playoff but excited to face the Trojans.
“It hurts a little bit because obviously you’re a competitor and you want to play for a national championship and you want to be in the college football playoffs,” he said. “But we’re still playing in the Rose Bowl. The Rose Bowl and the playoffs, it’s kind of a win-win situation no matter what. We’re going to the granddaddy of them all. Hopefully (we can) come out of there with a win.”
Barkley, a 19-year-old sophomore, has been arguably Penn State’s most valuable player. He’s averaged 5.3 yards per carry, rushed for 1,302 yards and 16 touchdowns, and has 347 yards and three touchdowns as receiver out of the backfield.
Penn State went 7-6 in each of James Franklin’s first two seasons, but Barkley expects great success for the foreseeable future.
“That’s the reason why we came here, especially my class,” he said. “The reason why we wanted to come to Penn State is we wanted to be a factor of why Penn State is Penn State again. You can’t come up short. That’s what kind of kept me going (in the Big Ten Championship). We always talk about not what Penn State was, but what Penn State is. That started with winning the Big Ten Championship. That’s the reason why we wanted to come to this school. It’s special that your name (is remembered) and you’re going to be part of that team that’s going to be hung up on that stadium forever.”