Ranking Penn State Football’s Top 10 Individual Performances of the James Franklin Era (Part 2) - NittanyCentral

NittanyCentral is home for the latest Penn State Football, Penn State Wrestling, Penn State Basketball news, updates, and analysis of the Penn State Nittany Lions

NittanyCentral is home for the latest Penn State Football, Penn State Wrestling, Penn State Basketball news, updates, and analysis of the Penn State Nittany Lions

NittanyCentral is home for the latest Penn State Football, Penn State Wrestling, Penn State Basketball news, updates, and analysis of the Penn State Nittany Lions

The latest news, insight, and analysis of Penn State Football, Penn State Wrestling, and Penn State Basketball, including schedules, game results, analysis of breaking news, rumors, speculation, and recruiting coverage of future Penn State Nittany Lions

NittanyCentral is home to the latest Penn State Nittany Lions news, updates, insight, and analysis, including in-depth coverage of Penn State Football, Penn State Wrestling, Penn State Basketball, and much more

Ranking Penn State Football’s Top 10 Individual Performances of the James Franklin Era (Part 2)

This will be part two of ranking Penn State football’s top 10 individual performances of the James Franklin era.

Penn State Football
Penn State Nittany Lions Head Coach James Franklin (Photo by Gregory Fisher/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Part one ranked the number six through 10 individual performances of the Franklin era at Penn State.

Here we will continue with the top five individual performances.

Penn State’s 5 Best Individual Performance of The James Franklin Era

5. Jahan Dotson vs. Ohio State (2020) 144 receiving yards and 3 touchdowns

Penn State Football fans have been trying to forget the 2020 season since it happened.

After a horrific, program-worst 0-5 start to the season, Penn State won the final four games to finish 4-5, the Nittany Lions‘ first losing season in decades.

However, despite the awful season overall, Jahan Dotson’s performance against the Ohio State Buckeyes remains one of the top individual performances of the Franklin era.

In game two of the 2020 season, Dotson caught eight passes for 144 yards and three touchdowns. His second touchdown catch of the day, a ridiculous one-handed catch over Ohio State cornerback Sean Wade, remains one of the most impressive catches ever by a Nittany Lion.


4. Micah Parsons vs. Memphis (2019 Cotton Bowl) 2 Sacks, 3 TFLs, 2 Forced Fumbles

This is the first of two mentions of players whose last game in a Penn State uniform was the 2019 Cotton Bowl.

Before he was wrecking defenses in the NFL weekly, Micah Parsons was a standout All-American linebacker at Penn State for only two short seasons, in part due to the COVID pandemic.

However, his last game in the famous Blue and White number 11 jersey was his best as a Nittany Lion. Against Memphis in the 2019 Cotton Bowl, Parsons racked up 14 tackles, three tackles for a loss, two sacks, two pass deflections, and two forced fumbles (not to mention contributing to a Garrett Taylor interception).

Parsons was all over the field against the Tigers leaving Penn State fans extremely excited about Parsons’ potential in 2020, becoming one of the biggest “what ifs” in the Franklin era as Parsons ultimately did not take another snap for Penn State before being selected in the first round of the 2021 NFL draft.

<< BUY PENN STATE TICKETS FOR 2024 SEASON >>


3. Saquon Barkley vs. USC (2017 Rose Bowl) 249 Yards from Scrimmage 3 Touchdowns

Saquon Barkley has long earned recognition as one of the best backs to come out of college in the past few decades, with his amazing ability to break tackles and make defenders miss in space.

One of the best examples of this came in the 2017 Rose Bowl.

In one of the most iconic plays in Rose Bowl history, Saquon made seemingly every USC defender miss on a 79-yard touchdown run, just one of his three touchdowns on the game.

In the contest, Barkley accumulated 194 yards on 25 carries and 55 yards on five catches for a total of 249 yards from scrimmage and three touchdowns. He also returned two kicks for 57 yards.


2. Journey Brown vs. Memphis (2019 Cotton Bowl) Penn State Bowl Record 202 Rushing Yards

Running back Journey Brown set Penn State records in what ultimately ended up being his final game in a Nittany Lions uniform, the 2019 Cotton Bowl vs. Memphis.

Breaking Saquon Barkley’s Penn State Bowl record of 194 rushing yards, Brown had a career day with 202 rushing yards and two touchdowns. He also broke Penn State’s bowl record for yards per carry, with an astounding 12.6 yards per carry.

After a medical issue forced his retirement from football before the 2020 season began, Brown’s 2019 Cotton Bowl performance left fans with one of the biggest “what if” moments in Penn State history.


1. Saquon Barkley vs. Iowa (2017) 305 yards from Scrimmage

While this game is remembered for Trace McSorley’s walkoff touchdown pass to Juwan Johnson, Saquon Barkley had one of the most insane individual performances in Penn State history leading up to that historic moment.

During a hardfought 21-19 win on the road in Kinnick Stadium, Saquon accumulated 305 yards from scrimmage over the course of four quarters.

On the ground, Saquon rushed the ball 28 times for 211 yards, averaging 7.5 yards per carry and a touchdown. In the air, Barkley added 12 catches for 94 yards. The junior running back also returned three kicks for 53 yards on the game.

However, one play stands above the rest in Penn State lore that night, as Saquon hurdled an Iowa defender on a swing pass in the fourth quarter, a play that is still shown prominently in his highlight real to this day.

While it is fun to reminisce with these top performances, the 2024 season creeps closer and new players will look to add their performances to this list.