GLENDALE, Ariz. --Penn State running back Saquon Barkley won't rush his looming NFL decision. He said Saturday night he would hold off on making a choice until "whenever it smacks [him] in the back of the head."
Barkley, a junior, is rated No. 1 on Mel Kiper's Big Board and No. 2 by fellow ESPN analyst Todd McShay. He rushed for 137 yards and two scores in the No. 9 Nittany Lions' 35-28 win over No. 11 Washingtonon Saturday at the Playstation Fiesta Bowl, raising his season rushing totals to 1,271 yards and 18 touchdowns.
Afterward, Barkley said he could make a decision on his future as soon as Sunday or take up until the Jan. 15 deadline.
"A lot of people think it's any easy decision," Barkley said. "Because you're able to play football in the NFL and make money and be able to support your family, but this place is special to me. I'm kind of torn."
The versatile back has 3,843 career rushing yards and is just 90 yards shy of the program's all-time mark. Barkley said that record is among a handful of reasons why he would consider returning for one final season in Happy Valley. He said losing two games by a total of four points this season -- a year the Nittany Lions started with hopes of making a run to the College Football Playoff -- also will be on his mind as he shifts through options.
"I didn't finish what I wanted here," he said. "I wanted to bring a national championship to this school. I wanted to break every rushing record. I didn't get that."
Penn State did finish in the Fiesta Bowl after building a 28-7 lead thanks in no small part to Barkley. He broke the game open in the second quarter with a 92-yard touchdown run that was the longest in the bowl game's history and the school's history.
He said the long run was extra sweet after a week of answering questions about how his team would fare against Washington's No. 1-ranked rushing defense. The Huskies entered Saturday's game allowing an average of 92 rushing yards per game.
"I kind of slowed down [at the end of the run]," Barkley said. "... I let it get to me a little bit and started showboating a little bit. I was really happy because all week we heard about how good this rush defense was ... I was tired of hearing all the talk."
If that proves to be the last highlight of Barkley's career at Penn State, he said he will be happy to go out on a high note.
"To be able to have a game like this," he said, "to send the seniors out on the right note, to be able to have an impact on the game that sends them off on the right note is the biggest thing."