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Strong Running Game Powers Penn State Past Indiana

No. 9 Penn State football ran all over Indiana during its 34-27 victory at Beaver Stadium on Saturday.

The Nittany Lions finished the game with 192 rushing yards from a number of different options. Journey Brown led the charge with 100 yards and a score on 21 attempts, and Sean Clifford chipped in 10 rushes for 55 yards and two touchdowns.

Elsewhere, Devyn Ford added 38 yards on eight carries, and Will Levis even contributed a pair of big first down conversions in a newly-unveiled formation. In that formation, Sean Clifford lined up out wide, and the plays Penn State ran exclusively featured the 6’3″, 229-pound redshirt freshman bulling forward in short-yardage situations.

Levis picked up a crucial 4th and 1 conversion midway through the drive in this package, which the team has worked on at different points during practice.

“It was something that we’ve kind of mixed in and we’ve been kind of doing throughout the year in practice,” head coach James Franklin said postgame. “Sean [Clifford] has been a little bit nicked up, so we’ve been working on it in practice in case we’re in a situation where we need to play him and add some running game.”

The Nittany Lions’ run game was particularly effective during the team’s last offensive drive in the fourth quarter. Penn State marched 75 yards in 18 plays as part of a drive that lasted 9:01 and effectively killed Indiana’s chances of winning the game. Sixteen of the team’s 18 plays were runs, and five of them resulted in either a first down or a touchdown.

Clifford in particular was great with his legs on Saturday. He scored a pair of touchdowns — including the game-sealing one-yarder on that drive. However, his first score of the day was far more impressive. After going back to pass, the redshirt sophomore scrambled out of the pocket and found the corner of the end zone from 38 yards out. The touchdown restored Penn State’s lead late in the first quarter, and the team wouldn’t trail at any point after that.

Beyond that, Journey Brown has established himself as Penn State’s featured back over the past two weeks. He finished with 100 yards on the ground for the second consecutive week and the third time this season while taking the vast majority of snaps at the position. Noah Cain warmed up and dressed for Penn State, but he didn’t play for the second straight week. Because of that, Devyn Ford was the first back to substitute into the game, and Ricky Slade was used sparingly on offense for the Nittany Lions.

“I definitely feel like I’m getting my feet under me and getting more comfortable with the offense,” Brown said. “It’s just knowing what I’m capable of and applying it to the field.”

You can have the most talented running backs in the world, but teams can only achieve the level of consistency Penn State had in the run game with excellent offensive line play. The Nittany Lions have gotten that over the past few weeks of this season, and the unit was fantastic at giving Penn State’s skill players room to operate and make plays.

“They’ve been playing fantastic all year, but they just keep taking it up a notch,” Brown said. “They never surprise me. Those guys are always working and trying to get better, and we’re seeing it now.”

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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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