STATE COLLEGE, Pa. - Silas Redd awoke around 5 a.m. Saturday morning even though Penn State's team bus wasn't scheduled to arrive at Beaver Stadium for another five-plus hours.
He couldn't sleep any longer. So what did he do? Just "sat there and thought about the game," he said.
Hours later, it was Indiana State left pondering how the 5-foot-10, 209-pound running back continuously eluded its defenders, bouncing off tacklers and accelerating through holes. With all the pregame hoopla centered on Penn State's quarterback situation, Redd showed why the Nittany Lions think their running game can be a strength of the offense this season.
Redd took advantage of his first career start in the team's season-opening, 41-7 blowout of Indiana State on Saturday. The flashy sophomore rushed for 94 yards and two touchdowns in the first half. He finished with 104 yards on 12 carries (8.7 yards per attempt), four of which went for more than 10 yards. With the game well in hand, Redd did not have a carry after Penn State's second drive in the third quarter.
"I'm glad I did well, and it gave me some more confidence, but at the same time I'm not satisfied," Redd said. "I just want to keep progressing each week as the season goes on."
Penn State's running backs alleviated some of the pressure on the quarterbacks. Redd, Brandon Beachum, Curtis Dukes, and the two first-string fullbacks, Joe Suhey and Mike Zordich, accounted for 36 carries. Signal-callers Rob Bolden and Matt McGloin combined to throw just 20 passes.
At 6-foot, 230 pounds, Beachum is more of a downhill runner than the shifty Redd. He had 41 yards on seven carries, while third-stringer Dukes had 51 yards on six carries. Suhey and Zordich combined for 44 yards, and each ran for a touchdown.
"I think [Redd] and I being the premier backs in this offense, he's really going to show you some things that you've not seen before," said Beachum, who played his first game on Saturday since November 2009, when he tore his anterior cruciate ligament. "I think we're going to do really great running the ball this year."
Redd finished last season as the backup to Evan Royster, Penn State's all-time leading rusher. Royster then endorsed Redd, who had 437 rushing yards and two touchdowns in 2010, to eventually eclipse his rushing mark.
But for all of the praise for Redd, there is always going to be at least one critic. Coach Joe Paterno has been on Redd to improve, and Redd knows the coach is right. Redd said he worked in the offseason to become more of a power back rather than relying solely on his speed. He has also been working on blocking and ballhandling in his quest to become a complete back.
"He played better than I thought he would, to be honest with you," Paterno said. "Silas has a lot of ability, but Silas has had a tendency to make some mistakes. He hadn't done a really good job in some blocking assignments, but I thought today he played a good, solid football game. . . . If he can build on that, he'll end up being a pretty darn good back."
A team rushing performance of 245 yards is all well and good, but the Lions realize they still have improvements to make. The Lions torched the defense of a Football Championship Subdivision program that went 2-60 from the middle of 2004 to 2009. On Saturday, Penn State hosts No. 2 Alabama, which is two years removed from a national title and boasts one of the nation's top defenses.
"We've been preparing ourselves since early August for the season," Redd said. "No matter whether its Indiana State, Alabama, or the New York Giants, we're going to go out there, we're going to have our guns blazing, and deliver our blows."