For IU's Defense, 'Flying To The Ball' Key To Stopping Saquon Barkley

Stu Jackson, Staff Writer
The Hoosier

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Marc Lebryk / USA TODAY Sports Images

What's it going to take to stop Saquon Barkley?

The Penn State junior running was a popular topic of questioning and conversation during the week, and rightly so as one of the favorites to win the 2017 Heisman Trophy.

IU senior linebacker Tegray Scales was asked the same question in different ways earlier this week, and his answer was simple.

"Flying to the ball," he said.

So that's what Indiana will do in an attempt to limit the effectiveness of what Hoosiers running backs coach Mike Hart called "one of the best I've seen since I've been playing or coaching."

Accomplishing that task, of course, is no small feat.

Barkley had a career-high 211 rushing yards on 28 carries and a touchdown to go along with 12 catches for 94 yards and three kickoff returns for 53 yards en route to a school-record 358 all-purpose yards in the Nittany Lions' last-second 21-19 win over Iowa at Kinnick Stadium. On the season, he leads the FBS with 253.3 all-purpose yards per game.

For context, Indiana's opponents as a team have produced 467.3 yards all-purpose yards per game.

Part of the "fly to the football" approach will likely be influenced by how IU was able to limit Barkley last year when Penn State came to Bloomington.

In that game, Barkley managed 33 carries for 58 yards, an average of 1.8 yards per carry, and had trouble developing a rhythm the majority of the game.

"You can’t let him get started," IU head coach Tom Allen said at Big Ten Football Media Day in late 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."

One player, though, is approaching Saturday by hitting the reset button.

While IU enjoyed success limiting Barkley in last year's game, IU redshirt senior safety Chase Dutra dismissed the idea of any carryover effect.

"Obviously, it's great that we had a great game last year, but in my opinion it means nothing," Dutra said. "That's what (the coaches) are preaching as well. He's going to want to come back and get revenge, and he's trying to have a Heisman year. We're trying to shut him down, and we're going to to do that. We're going to do our assignments, read our keys and do our job."

In addition to being an all-purpose threat, Barkley also has the ability hurdle defenders.

Scales, once more, said the approach is the same.

"Fly to the ball," he said. "Somebody goes low and he jumps, somebody's got to be there to clean him up up top. That's out theme, flying to the ball."

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