Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Psu Looks to Regain Its Rushing Proficiency

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Psu Looks to Regain Its Rushing Proficiency

Article excerpt

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State's running game gained a lot of yards - and, it seemed, even more momentum - in the early weeks of this season.

After netting 205 yards on the ground in the season opener against Appalachian State, the Nittany Lions rushed for 211, 297 and 387 yards in the three games that followed.

By no coincidence, they won all four.

But, after cresting with a 63-24 victory Sept. 21 at Illinois, Penn State's rushing output has declined - sometimes, precipitously - in the five games since.

The Nittany Lions tallied 206 rushing yards in the 27-26 loss to Ohio State one week after beating the Illini, then 205, 174, 118 and 68 in the subsequent four games.

By no coincidence, they won just two of those.

Predictably, confidence in their ability to run the ball effectively has plunged in conjunction with the drop in production.

Restoring that faith, running back Miles Sanders said Wednesday, could be a critical first step toward correcting all that has gone wrong with the running game the past month or so.

To that end, Sanders and a contingent of running backs paid an informal visit to their offensive linemen on Sunday, one day after a 42-7 humbling in Ann Arbor in which they often seemed outmatched by Michigan's defensive front.

"A big storyline in the game was up front, especially their [defensive] line and linebackers against our [offensive] line and tight ends, and we did not play well enough there," coach James Franklin said.

Franklin's criticism notwithstanding, Sanders and his fellow backs met with their blockers not to berate them, but to reaffirm confidence in their abilities.

"We just wanted to let them know that we have their backs," Sanders said. "That we're in this together and that we will get the running game back on track this weekend."

Specifically, the Nittany Lions aim to accomplish that at noon Saturday, when Wisconsin visits Beaver Stadium. …

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