Let’s take a look at one really good example of Joe Moorhead getting Barkley in space. Penn State has the ball at the Purdue 40 on the opening drive.
Penn State comes out in base personnel here with trips to the field side and Gesicki in a three-point stance to the boundary side. Purdue goes and matches up to all three receivers in the trips to the field side, and has someone in line with Gesicki and Barkley. This is showing that they’re probably going to play man-to-man coverage here.
Barkley breaks to the inside on his stab route and he has a lot of room to work with against his less-athletic defender. The one interesting thing about the route combinations on this play is that intentionally or unintentionally, Nittany Lions are in position to block the two deep safeties once the ball goes to Barkley underneath.
What makes the difference between this play being a moderate gain and the play having a chance to be big is that McSorley delivers a pass that hits Barkley in stride. It’s the little things that can make the difference.
Big things can also make a difference though, and Saquon Barkley qualifies as that. He slips the tackle, and now he’s really in business.
Mike Gesicki gets a key block and at this point it’s a matter if Saquon will get into the end zone or not. It’s a very well drawn-up play by JoeMo and well-executed by Penn State.
Penn State's receivers have struggled getting separation at times this year against man coverage. This seems like this was a counter to those struggles by Joe Moorhead. If teams want to play cover two man that's fine, but that means they'll probably have to have a linebacker cover Saquon Barkley, and there are not many linebackers at any level of football that can cover him.
Of course, Barkley catching the ball out of the backfield is all well and good, but the easiest way to get him the ball is to simply hand it off to him and let him go to work. Let's take a look at the highlight of the game, Barkley's 81 yard touchdown run.
Penn State has been bringing Barkley in motion lately to try to cause some confusion with the defense and probably set up some jet sweeps with Barkley that we could see as soon as this weekend. Penn State is in its normal 11 personnel here with Purdue in a 4-2-5 look.
Penn State ran off the right side of the offensive line with success all game, but while this play will end up going there, it does not appear that was where it was intended. It appears this was designed to be an inside run and is blocked pretty well for such a play. It's going to be 1v1 in the hole between Barkley and #26 of Purdue, which is something PSU is going to like their chances with. Notice that Ryan Bates literally has no one to block. He's going to pretty much run the length of the play with Barkley and not touch a single soul.
Unfortunately, that hole closes up pretty quickly. Most normal division one running backs just plow into it for a gain of maybe a yard or two. Saquon is a different breed. He recognizes the opportunity to bounce this outside.
There's no way that Purdue's defensive end is going to be able to keep the edge given how sucked in they were and Saquon is off to the races. Note Bates in the upper right of the picture with still no one to block.
I've said all year that Penn State's receivers are excellent blockers and can really make the difference on big plays and this is another example. Chris Godwin is doing an amazing job here and his block is going to allow Saquon Barkley to take this 81 yards to the house. Note Ryan Bates, with still no one to block.
Saquon Barkley is very good, we all know that. However, the rest of the country is starting to find out as well