After watching all five of Penn State’s running backs rush for 242 yards and seven touchdowns in their season-opening game, James Franklin could have had a sleepless night wondering which one to name as the starter for Saturday night’s game against Buffalo at Beaver Stadium.
But Franklin indicated Tuesday he doesn’t have that problem at all, that even though the four scholarship running backs in the group are close in the competition for No. 1, it’s not difficult to manage the snaps at all.
“No, I actually think it’s quite the opposite when you have five running backs all score a touchdown, and a couple of with multiple,” the head coach said at his weekly media teleconference, looking back on Saturday’s 79-7 rout of Idaho.
“There’s a lot of people that are getting opportunities to make an impact in the game. I think that creates a healthy position, and I think that creates a healthy locker room. I think as the season goes on, there’s going to be weeks that it’s going to get tricky and there’s going to be a guy that gets hot that you go with.
“But obviously whenever we can play multiple backs and they all have success and all score touchdowns -- I don’t know if I’ve ever been a part of that before, five separate running backs all scoring a touchdown, pretty special.”
Freshman Devyn Ford broke an 81-yard scoring run in the second quarter and finished as high rusher with 107 yards in six carries. His classmate, Noah Cain, rushed nine times for 44 yards and two touchdowns.
Redshirt sophomore Journey Brown also scored twice and picked up 38 yards on five carries. Sophomore starter Ricky Slade, the backup last year to Miles Sanders, also had five carries, one for a touchdown, but gained only 9 yards, adding one catch for 26.
Although he scored the last of the Nittany Lions’ 10 touchdowns, redshirt junior walk-on Nick Eury, the fifth running back, may have gotten the best reaction from his teammates.
Eury, who entered the game with one career carry in two seasons, rushed on six of the last seven plays, including an 8-yard run when he broke two tackles and lunged over the goal line. He was mobbed on the field and on the sideline.
“He’s just a guy that comes to work every single day,” Franklin said of Eury. “He’s got a huge smile on his face. He’s very appreciative and goes out and gets his team better every single day by the way he practices."
Of course, some had a problem with the Lions continuing to try to score with such a big lead and the game already decided. But Franklin said he owed it to his players like Eury who never see playing time.
“I know we had some discussions as a staff,” he said. “You look at the score and no one, I would say, necessarily likes to see that in college football. But I will tell you I also believe very strongly that those guys deserve the ability to get in the game and play.
“They should be able to go in and play, and that’s what they were able to do, and that’s why the locker room and the team reacted the way they did to [Eury]."