Penn State exploded on the ground for 228 yards against Massachusetts on Saturday - 1 more yard than the Nittany Lions had rushed for through their first three games combined.
Gaping holes in the 48-7 blowout victory over the Minutemen offered the Lions' running game an opportunity to put on a show for the Beaver Stadium crowd, which celebrated five Penn State rushing touchdowns alone.
The breakout day on the ground, as well as a largely peaceful day for Christian Hackenberg in the pocket, allowed a youthful offensive line to prove something to itself, redshirt freshman Andrew Nelson said.
"We knew what kind of line we could be, and we just weren't executing. Today we executed, and it showed us that, 'Hey, we can be the guys we want to be,' " Nelson said.
The tackle added that he thinks the performance "showed everyone that we can run the ball."
A 46-yard burst by running back Akeel Lynch around a beautifully sealed right edge broke loose the rushing attack on the first play of the third drive. While that drive finished with a field goal, giving the Lions a 6-0 cushion, the next five Penn State possessions finished with rushing touchdowns - of 24, 20, 5, 1, and 15 yards.
The Minutemen came into the game allowing more than 200 rushing yards per game on average, and Nelson acknowledged Penn State will face fiercer defensive fronts this season.
But coach James Franklin said the success of the line and the running game isn't about Penn State's opponents.
"It's about us," Franklin said. "It's about us and how we execute and how we work together . . . and are we going to have the guy on the right and the guy on the left's back? Are we going to be there for him and do our jobs? Ultimately, it comes down to Penn State."
From the running back perspective, senior Bill Belton said the biggest difference he saw on Saturday was simple.
"Green grass," Belton said with a smile. "They're moving guys up front, and they're continuing to get better each week."
Dowrey gets first start
Franklin inserted Derek Dowrey for Brian Gaia at the starting right guard spot to give the redshirt sophomore his first career start. The first-year coach didn't explain the decision after the game, other than to say it was not due to any off-the-field issues. Franklin said Gaia should be back next week.