STATE COLLEGE, Pa. – Journey Brown came to Penn State having rolled up some incredible rushing statistics at Meadville High School in northwestern Pennsylvania. He also broke the state 100-meter dash record held by former Penn Wood star and Olympian Leroy Burrell.
Brown, a redshirt sophomore, is now one of the four scholarship running backs who split time in the Nittany Lions’ season-opening win over Idaho, rushing for 38 yards on five carries and scoring two touchdowns.
The Lions did not have the same kind of versatility in the first half of Saturday night’s game against Buffalo, but Brown led them in rushing with four carries for 25 yards. The Bulls dominated the clock and shocked the Lions with a late touchdown to take a 10-7 halftime lead.
Brown said in a conference call during the week that he was not worried about how the coaches would allot the playing time for the backs.
“We all look at it as a challenge,” he said. “One of our core values is compete, so all of us are going to do that. We’re going to compete and whoever has the hot hand is going to play. But we’re never going to be disappointed.
“If someone gets less playing time, it just means you have to work harder and compete harder and just keep your head down. Keep working because everybody’s path is different.”
Brown rushed for 2,791 yards and 45 touchdowns in his senior year at Meadville. After redshirting his first season at Penn State, he saw limited action in 2018, carrying the ball only eight times for 44 yards. He concentrated more on studying the playbook in the offseason and worked hard on his body, running a 4.29-second time in the 40-yard dash.
Brown said he’s transitioned his ability in track to the football field.
“Track is a lot of just straightaway running,” he said. “I can increase my speed very quickly when I get in a straightaway. If I get an open field where I can just kind of turn it to track mode, I can just outrun people.”
Sophomore tight end Pat Freiermuth, who was knocked out of last week’s game because of hard hit on the goal line, started Saturday night’s game for Penn State.
The starting guards for the Nittany Lions were redshirt senior Steven Gonzalez and redshirt sophomore Mike Miranda. The Lions have been using a three-guard rotation that included C.J. Thorpe, who started with Gonzalez last week.
Buffalo got nicked by transfers in the offseason.
Three of their top four receivers from 2018 went to other schools, including graduate transfers K.J. Osborn (46 catches, 704 yards, four touchdowns) to Miami (Fla.) and Tyler Mabry (24 catches, 205 yards, two touchdowns) to Maryland. Sophomore Charlie Jones transferred to Iowa and has to sit out this season.
With the Bulls’ ground game working last weekend, quarterback Matt Myers attempted only 10 passes and completed five. Tight end Zac Lefebvre was the only player with two catches, both going for touchdowns.
The running game worked well for one half Saturday night behind an offensive line that returned all five starters, as did the entire offense. The Bulls had drives of 69 yards and 96 yards in the first half, with the latter drive leading to a 6-yard TD pass from Myers to tight end Julien Bourassa for a 10-7 lead at the break.
According to figures released by the football program, Penn State placed 32 players on the opening-day roster of 20 NFL teams.