Does Tom Allen have the formula for slowing Saquon Barkley?

Penn State is next and you know what that means.

A whole lot of Saquon Barkley.

One month into the college football season, the Nittany Lions’ running back is among the top Heisman Trophy hopefuls. He can run, he can catch, he can return kicks — and he’ll be a handful for the Hoosiers next weekend in State College.

Not only is he averaging 129.5 rushing yards through four games, Barkley leads the Big Ten with 335 receiving yards. In Saturday’s last-second win at Iowa, the junior set a Penn State program record with 358 all-purpose yards.

So how do you plan for Barkley? Few coaches across the Big Ten and beyond have the answer.

Except maybe Indiana’s Tom Allen.

Of the 14 defensive units Penn State faced in 2016, Allen’s group at IU did the best job of bottling up the Lions’ star back, holding him to merely 58 yards on 33 carries. Entering that game last November, a 45-31 Penn State win, Barkley had been averaging 117.2 yards per contest and 6.3 yards per rush. On that afternoon, the Hoosiers held Barkley to merely 1.8 yards per carry.

So how did Allen plan for Barkley?

“You can’t let him get started,” Allen said at Big Ten Media Day in July. “We tried to get a lot of penetration. We tried to do a lot of disrupting up front. I felt like that really paid off.

“If you watch the game, there are a lot of times he’s making lateral cuts before he gets to the line of scrimmage. He doesn’t get a chance to get his pads downhill. We played really well defensively in that game and that’s just one of those ones that still kind of stings a year later.”

Of course, Barkley enters this year’s meeting on the heels of arguably one of the most impressive all-around performances in Penn State’s rich football history.

He picked up 211 yards on 28 carries, caught 12 passes for 94 yards and also returned three kicks for 53 yards.

“He’s just so powerful and quick,” Allen said in July. “He’s impressive. He was impressive last year and he’s even stronger, it looks like — and maybe a step quicker, as scary as it may go.

“It’s hard with him with the spread offense. You gotta account for the quarterback and you run out of hats. If you could play with 12, you’d feel a lot better. It’s just getting enough guys to him because he’s gonna make it so hard on the one guy to get there by himself first. That’s tough.”


  1. I don’t know the approach IU will take this year but coach is right about penetration will stop a good back. The worry this year is the OSU game and Dobbins picking up yards even though it looked like IU had his stuffed. Of course OSU OL looks much better than PSU’s did thispat weekend. What hurt IU last year were the big pass plays they got despite good pressure on their QB.

    The big worry is if our Offense can sustain anything offensively. It will take a great offensive game plan to stress this defense. We have players to win match ups but how will the offense perform against another top defense? I hope our QBs are on target early and throughout the game with our top receievers shredding the secondary. That will help the running start to get some openings.

  2. Gets me wondering…Who does the hard-hitting editorial stuff for HT? I do recall a stunning interview of Eric Gordon done by Zach Osterman….where he finally brought to the forefront all the horrible weed rolling done by some of Kelvin’s adopted degenerates. Meanwhile, McRobbie’s son was running a pot factory from his dorm room. Of course, that one didn’t make the “big story” cut for the 10 o’clock news.
    Can I have the link to the hard-hitting editorial concerning all the badmouthing Wilson was giving to some of his so-called “soft” injured players? Is there anything worth the time it takes to show the public you’re not just another sliced banana added to the jello mold of safe journalism?

  3. The answer to the question posed in the headline is “no.” Unless he gets an intestinal virus that keeps him in the locker room, IU is not going to stop Barkley. We may slow him down a bit, but we’re not going to stop him. And neither is any other team PSU plays. IU’s only hope of winning this game is to outscore PSU, and that’s going to require eliminating all turnovers, a “career” performance by our quarterbacks and receivers, excellent special teams play, producing a few take-aways of our own, and getting a bit lucky. If Lagow and our receivers performs like they did in the first half against OSU, we have a good chance. If PSU feels pressure to come from behind in the second half, they will reduce Barkley’s carries and pass more. And while that’s no picnic to defend against either, that’s the only way IU can win this game. I watched the PSU – Iowa game, and Barkley was simply phenomenal against a good defense. I think IU’s defense is faster than Iowa’s defense, but Barkley is a load. So many of his yards were earned by his extra effort and by himself. When other backs would have been tackled, he was still gaining yards. Tom Allen is proving to be an excellent defensive coach, but Barkley is an exceptionally rare talent.

  4. Penn State’s running game is built on elusiveness and misdirection.
    Still not quite as elusive and hard-to-tackle as all their recent Hall of Shame administrators who were running from the truth they knew of Sandusky.

  5. The problem is Penn State can win very well even if running back is slowed down. That is why they have a number 4 ranking. However, as I said before the Virginia win was a bigger win than what it appears to be. (solid win that did not come down to the wire). Penn State plays with a lot of aggression. Quick throws to big recievers. Where is Tyler Natee? Plays in short yardage situations including near goaline with Morgan Ellis and Natee in backfield at same time. May run or pass from it. What is wrong with Ball?

  6. H4H Knight’s teams were not free of pot-smoking degenerates. As one said to me (and others, between puffs) in a dorm room in the late ’70s as a big pile of weed was being divvied up into baggies, “Coach cares if you get caught.”

  7. davis is right. I too witnessed some of those IU BB players (and football players) partying with the help of some weed, and etc. during my time on campus in the late 70’s. To my knowledge , none of those players got caught while I was on campus.

  8. Weed was accepted and used with casual frequency more in the ’70s than the recent times
    My post above was rather sliced and diced by Jeremy…I was drawing comparisons between the minor offenses under Kelvin compared to the despicable stuff we’ve seen in the headlines that occurred at UNC, Louisville, and PSU. Those schools far uglier wrongs are not obsessed over on the ESPN family of Establishment networks.

  9. Anyone that thinks their child or any college age kid is pure as driven snow is a fool. Not many were like me that hated drugs so much I wouldn’t participate but girls were another matter. Atheletes aren’t any different other than their training generally reduces the amount they use and peer pressure keeps it away for public view.

    Last year Barkley was having as good a year and IU’s defense held him to fifty some yards. The issue is how well our front handles their OL . If we can’t get penetration then Barkley will have a good day. On the other hand if we get into the backfield like last year we can shut him down again. We just have to make sure it doesn’t take so many players stopping Barkley that receivers get open for big plays.

    PSU looked talented against IU but were losing until the final minute and only scored to win with no time on the clock. They looked beatable in this game but it won’t be easy.

    1. v I got to agree with you both about the ‘girls’ and in the reflection of last years PSU game to the prospects of this years. It was the PSU OL last year that was not B1G ready for what then DC Allen subjected them to. They know what he did to them the same as he does. Their OL this year is no doubt matured, been upgraded and improved which means the HC will have to add to and adjust from last year to stifle their RB. It may mean something as simple as orchestrated stunts and slants by the DL based on field position + down and distance. With the strength and depth of our LB’s and DB’s adjusting those #’s on field is a thought. In other words a chess match between a DC against an OC like always.

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