Penn State Football: Quartet Of Backs Rumble Nittany Lions To Victory
COLLEGE PARK, Md. — Maybe Penn State doesn't have to settle on just one or two running backs.
"It feels like we're all kind of like one [running back]," Penn State back Journey Brown said after Penn State's 59-0 victory over Maryland.
It's hard to argue with his point. The quartet of Devyn Ford, Ricky Slade, Noah Cain and Brown rumbled their way to a two-touchdown night and 109-yards on the ground. Penn State neared the 200-yard rushing mark as a team when you account for the scrambles by quarterbacks Sean Clifford and Will Levis.
For his efforts Brown managed 21 yards and a score on five carries, while Slade slammed home 28 yards on eight carries and a touchdown of his own. Both Ford and Cain continued their impressive freshman debuts with 60-yards between the two of them.
All four backs hauled in passes as well, Brown with a 37-yard reception, Slade with three catches on three targets, Ford and Cain adding their names to the mix with a combined 24 yards receiving.
And then there was pass protection, all four once again contributing in that way — Cain in particular as he picked up a big block on an eventual touchdown pass in the second quarter.
The question of Penn State's running back rotation continues to be an eye-roller for James Franklin, but if Friday night's game was any indication, there hasn't been any changes because that change is so unclear. Each back has shown glimpses of star power, only to see another do the same.
In all likelihood Penn State's increasingly difficult schedule and an increasing amount of stats and data will start to paint a clearer picture in the Nittany Lions' running back room. In the case of Ford and Cain, both have played in four games, seeing the field in another would mean burning a year of eligibility.
But for right now it's business as usual, and business calls for everyone to get touches.
“That’s the million dollar question every week,” running backs coach JaJuan Seider said earlier this week about playing time among the group. “It’s been difficult. It’s been difficult for all of us because the kids earned the right to play.”
"It's a trust thing," Brown added later. "I know when I get tired I'm not afraid to tap my head and have another guy come in for me, because it's going to be the same or even better. I've said this before, we don't have egos or nothing, it's all love."
And love appears to be working plenty fine right now.