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Penn State Football: 43 Carries Later, Nittany Lions Post Important Stat

by on September 02, 2018 2:20 PM

If Miles Sanders was trying to make people forget about Saquon Barkley he probably shouldn't have jumped over a defender on his very first carry of the game.

But you gotta do what you gotta do.

And Sanders had to jump, and he did, picking up two-yards in the process, and reminding everyone of the guy he would rather not remind everyone of.

Such is life.

Sanders was more than serviceable in his starting debut on Saturday rushing for 91 yards on 18 carries. While he may not have showcased the kind of flash and otherworldly skills of his predecessor, he and his counterparts Ricky Slade and Mark Allen reminded everyone that staying on schedule and gaining 4-5 yards a carry between the tackles ain't too shabby either.

“He handled himself really well," quarterback Trace McSorley said after the game. “I think Miles had a really good game. Our running backs, all three of them are capable of coming in making plays and being spark plugs for our team. He did a great job on his touchdowns, especially on the goal line, seeing the lane open and doing what he does best. He was able to come in and answer some questions that a lot of people had.”

For Sanders this was a day he had long waited for. As he reminded James Franklin after the game, telling him as they embraced, this was a moment two years in the making. He could have given up, but he didn't, he could have transferred, but he decided not to. He worked when he could have taken the easy route.  

“Miles is a great example of (staying the course)," Franklin said postgame. "He was sitting behind Saquon Barkley — maybe the best running back on the planet — and he just kept grinding and kept working and kept staying positive. I think he is going to have a huge year for us.”

As a whole it was also a game with a stat not to be overlooked. In total Penn State ran the ball 43 times, and only one carry resulted in a loss of yards. If there was anything Sanders didn't want to do like Barkley, it was having to dance for his life in the backfield and for the most part he managed to avoid just that. Considering that the Nittany Lions were tackled 91 times in the backfield last season, 117th worst in the nation, 12 spots from the bottom of the list, posting just one is something of a minor miracle whether or not Barkley demanded that attention from defenses.

Penn State won't be satisfied with much of anything that happened during Saturday afternoon's wild win, but as debuts go, all three running backs proved that Saquon might be missed, but that doesn't mean he is required in order for the Nittany Lions to keep winning.

Ben Jones covers Penn State football and basketball for He's on Twitter as @Ben_Jones88.
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