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Penn State Football: Riding the Noah Cain Hype Train

by on October 13, 2019 6:00 PM

Don’t worry about Noah Cain starting games for Penn State.

Just make sure he finishes them.

The soft-spoken, piano-playing freshman from The Bayou is already the Nittany Lions’ No. 1 running back. When it counts.

And those numbers are staggering:

In the fourth quarter of Penn State’s last two games — against Purdue and at Iowa — Cain has had 23 carries for 149 yards, for a 6.5-yards per carry average, with 7 first downs and 2 touchdowns.

That’s covering some lawn, boyz.

Dreads, tattoos and chains? Sure:

In the fourth quarter, defenses dread Cain. Because he tattoos linebackers. And he’s the latest in a long chain of bruising PSU backs, ala LJ, Enis, Cappy, Hunt, Blair and Franco.

His middle name is St. John and he was born just eight days before Christmas Day, 2000. So no wonder that over the past two weeks, he has been a final-stanza blessing for the Nittany Lions.

And thus, Noah has been anointed as King James’ main man when the game is on the line.

Take, Iowa. Please.  Penn State entered the fourth quarter of Saturday’s road game ahead 10-6 and finished winning 17-12. In between was Noah Cain.

The Nittany Lions ran 24 plays in the final quarter, and 15 of ’em went to Cain. All runs. Not counting the final kneel down, Cain carried the ball on Penn State’s final eight plays, and nine of its last 10.

Penn State’s offense began the fourth quarter with a two-second advantage in time of possession. But over the final 15 minutes, the Nittany Lions had the ball for 10 minutes and 23 seconds compared to just 4:37 for the Hawkeyes.

Possession was nine-tenths of the win.

By riding the Cain Train in consecutive weeks, Penn State has displayed the effective four-minute offense that James Franklin has been yearning for under John Donovan, Joe Moorhead and now Ricky Rahne. Times two-and-half. With Cain carrying the bulk of the load, against the Hawkeyes the Nittany Lions had fourth-quarter drives of:

-- 10 plays, 53 yards, 3:47, culminating with a Blake Gillikin punt that pinned Iowa at its 4.

-- 8 plays, 35 yards, 4:05, culminating in a 5-yard Cain TD run.

-- 6 plays, 7 yards, 2:31, culminating in the end of the game.

In all, Cain rushed 15 times for 67 yards, three first downs and what was the winning touchdown in the final 15 minutes in Kinnick Stadium. He finished with 105 yards on 22 carries.

Cain, set, match.

“To end the ball on our terms like that — a four-minute offense — we hadn’t been able to do that under the old offensive system, the new offensive system,” Franklin said. “We weren’t really able to do that. We did it against a ranked team on the road.”

Take Purdue, as well — since guys named Noah (meaning “rest, comfort”…as in, I got this, CJF) are good with things that come in two.

Eight days ago against Purdue, Penn State jumped out to a 28-0 lead, then sputtered. Big-time. The Lions went eight straight drives without any discernible progress: Interception, missed field goal, muffed punt, punt, punt, punt, punt, punt.

On Penn State’s initial drive of the fourth quarter against the Boilermakers, Cain had carries of 6, 5 and 7 yards on a possession that stalled due a holding penalty. Then, with 7:53 left in the game and Penn State ahead 28-7 but in neutral for over half the contest, PSU’s offense took the field at its own 13-yard line.

Cain took over: 11 yards (first down), 16 yards, 8 yards, 27 yards (first down), 2 yards (touchdown). He finished with 122 yards on 12 carries. Cain showed he was able.

On Saturday night in Iowa City, here’s what Franklin had to say about his 5-foot-10, 208-pound freshman who is a native of Louisiana, but played his high school football at Guyer High School in Texas and at IMG Academy in Florida:

“Noah is a downhill guy, very little indecision. He’s always falling forward, and he continues to do great things,” Franklin said. “I’m really proud of him.”

Proud enough to put him No. 1 on the depth chart this week in advance of Michigan? Maybe OR maybe not OR we’ll see come game time.

It doesn’t matter, really.

If pride — and the game — are on the line against the Wolverines, if the trends hold, Franklin will whiteout the other running backs on his list and go with Noah.

He does, after all, know how to raise Cain.

Mike Poorman has covered Penn State football since 1979, and for since the 2009 season. His column appears on Mondays and Fridays. Follow him on Twitter at His views and opinions do not necessarily reflect those of Penn State University.
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