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Confidence Key For Penn State Running Backs Following Slow Start

Penn State’s running back room looks a lot different than most would’ve imagined just a month ago.

The group lost its starter, Journey Brown, who can no longer play football due to a rare heart condition. Additionally, Noah Cain was injured in the first game of the season and was ruled out for the season shortly after.

Now, the backs are led by sophomore Devyn Ford and two true freshmen, Caziah Holmes and Keyvone Lee.

The three backs have gotten off to a less-than-ideal start, as Penn State’s offense hasn’t been able to get the running game going early on in the season.

Ford, Holmes, and Lee have combined for 58 carries worth 224 yards, which is good for just 3.86 yards per carry. Ford has gotten the majority of the carries with 37 attempts for 141 yards and one touchdown.

Last week, against a Maryland defense that allowed 587 rushing yards through its first two games, the Nittany Lions totaled just 94 rushing yards, 26 of which came from quarterback Sean Clifford.

Running backs coach Ja’Juan Seider put a lot of the blame for struggles against Maryland on himself and the rest of the coaching staff.

“A lot of that is on us as play callers,” Seider said. “We kinda got behind and we kinda changed our mindset. We tried to probably strike to get back in it too fast and probably banged the run game. It’s not on [Ford], it’s on us as coaches.”

However, Seider said it’s crucial that his group makes plays, which is something he thinks they need to do a better job of doing.

“The O-Line’s job is to cover guys up. Our job is to make a play, whether that means breaking a tackle, getting a guy in open space and winning,” he said. “We gotta do a better job of that.”

The struggles of the running game don’t just fall on Seider’s running backs, rather the offense as a whole. The offensive line has struggled to open up running lanes for the running backs through the first three games. It takes good play from both the backs and the offensive line to create a consistent running game.

Seider wouldn’t blame the offensive line for the struggles but acknowledged that everyone needs to play better and do their job.

“I’m never going to put the oline under the bus, and I’m never going to make excuses for what we do in this room,” Seider said. “We gotta play better, we gotta coach better. The oline will tell you too, we all gotta do our job. It’s never just one person.”

Seider emphasized the importance of having faith and fun when playing, which is something his group needs to get back to.

“We just have to play with confidence,” Seider said. “I think this is huge, we have to go have fun. Through this whole process man, we forgot how to have fun. When you have fun, it breeds confidence. I’m guilty of that too. I’ve been coaching, but I’ve lost that part of it.”

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About the Author

Gabe Angieri

Gabe is a senior majoring in journalism and is suddenly Onward State's managing editor. He grew up in Lindenhurst, New York, and has had the absolute misfortune of rooting for the Jets, Mets, and Knicks. If you want to see his bad sports takes, follow him on Twitter @gabeangieri and direct all hate mail and death threats to [email protected]

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