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Noah Cain Shines Once Again In Penn State’s Gritty Win Over Iowa

Penn State football just might have to name a new starting running back after Saturday night’s 17-12 victory over Iowa.

Cain posted his second consecutive 100-yard rushing performance in a huge spot for the Nittany Lions. He finished the game with 102 yards and the eventual game-winning touchdown on 22 carries in James Franklin’s first victory over a ranked opponent away from home as a head coach.

“Noah Cain obviously played extremely well,” head coach James Franklin said postgame. “To end the game on our terms like that, we haven’t been able to really do that. Noah is a downhill guy — very little indecision. He sticks his foot in the ground and gets downhill, and he’s always falling forward. We went into this knowing he’d be our four-minute back.”

Although Cain scored the touchdown that put Penn State up by two scores with 5:17 to play in the fourth quarter, his most significant run of the evening came on Penn State’s final offensive drive. Iowa was burning its timeouts and forced the offense into a 3rd and 3, but up stepped Cain to make the play of the game. He rumbled forward for a gain of five, and that allowed the Nittany Lions to run out the clock and seal their sixth victory of the 2019 season.

When you look at the numbers from Saturday’s game, Cain was the runaway standout among Penn State’s committee of running backs. Devyn Ford, Journey Brown, and Ricky Slade combined to gain just 41 yards on the ground on Saturday night. Ford finished the game with 17 yards on four carries, Brown had 16 on four attempts, and Slade put up just eight yards on four tries throughout the game.

Cain out-gained his three fellow running backs’ total output for the entire game in the fourth quarter alone. He ran for 67 yards in the most important stanza of the game, which is also when Franklin and his coaching staff decided to lean on the true freshman. That decision paid off thanks to Cain’s knack for simply getting the job done when the ball is in his hands.

James Franklin has praised Cain’s consistency and ability to pick up good chunks of yardage by falling forward, and he continued to do exactly that on Saturday night. There isn’t a lot about Cain’s game that’s flashy or jumps off the page, but just two of his 22 carries against Iowa resulted in gains shorter than three yards. He averaged 4.6 yards per carry against the Hawkeyes and is now Penn State’s leading rusher with 310 yards and six touchdowns so far this season.

You’re typically not going to get anything spectacular out of Cain. His longest run on Saturday was a 12-yarder, but honestly, you don’t need the spectacular for Cain to be such an asset.

The true freshman has also been an invaluable asset to Penn State in the passing game. He was held without a catch on Saturday night, but he’s totaled 89 yards on seven receptions so far this year. The Nittany Lions’ running backs typically run quick swing or flat routes in the passing game, and those provide a nice change of pace for the offense.

Making the argument against Noah Cain being Penn State’s first-choice running back is getting more and more difficult — especially after his last two performances.

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About the Author

Mikey Mandarino

In the most upsetting turn of events, Mikey graduated from Penn State with a digital & print journalism degree in the spring of 2020. He covered Penn State football and served as an editor for Onward State from 2018 until his graduation. Mikey is from Bedminster, New Jersey, so naturally, he spends lots of time yelling about all the best things his home state has to offer. Mikey also loves to play golf, but he sucks at it because golf is really hard. If you, for some reason, feel compelled to see what Mikey has to say on the internet, follow him on Twitter @Mikey_Mandarino. You can also get in touch with Mikey via his big-boy email address: [email protected]

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