Penn State rushing attack dominant on the road at Auburn
On Saturday, Penn State walked into Jordan-Hare Stadium facing a raucous environment, and a crowd decked out in Orange.
However, the Nittany Lions didn’t get rattled facing an SEC opponent in the Auburn Tigers, in addition to the crazed crowd.
The blue and white came away with a dominant 41-12 victory for its third straight to open the season and arguably its most complete game.
A major proponent of Penn State’s success was its running game, as for the second week in a row, it ran for over 200 yards.
True freshman Nicholas Singleton stole the show as he tallied 124 yards and two touchdowns on just 10 carries.
His longest run of the game came midway through the fourth quarter as he burst through a gaping hole on the right side for a 54-yard touchdown, extending the lead to 38-12.
“It makes it a lot easier for us,” redshirt-freshman left guard Landon Tengwall said. “It's fun to watch those guys run down the sideline for 60-70-yard touchdowns. It's the best feeling in the world for an offensive lineman.”
Singleton’s 124-yard performance marks the second straight week he’s reached over 100 yards becoming the first freshman since Noah Cain in 2019 to have back-to-back games, reaching the century mark in rushing yards.
Having Singleton churn out explosive play after explosive play is a refreshing sight for Penn State fans, and it’s even more impressive when everyone in the stadium knows you’re running the ball.
A main reason for the Nittany Lions' struggles last year was the inability to run the ball, and it was evident in red zone opportunities.
They had just 47.62 percent of their red zone trips into touchdowns and had just six rushing touchdowns from running backs.
However, with the additions of Singleton and fellow freshman Kaytron Allen, the blue and white have drastically improved down by the goal line, with the duo rushing for six touchdowns already and turning its red zone trips into six at an 83.33 percent clip.
Paired with Singleton and Allen, Penn State has two veterans, Keyvone Lee and Devyn Ford, as the four backs ran all over the Auburn defense for 245 yards, and they averaged 6.3 yards per carry.
“Those chunk plays — six, seven, eight yards — those are the plays that really wear out the defense. Those are really the important plays,” Tengwall said. “Those long runs, they happen every once in a while, but those long runs don't happen without those six-, seven-, eight-yard run plays.”
After Penn State’s 35-31 season-opening victory, Lee vowed the running backs will improve after the offense scored five touchdowns, and none came from a running back on the ground.
Since that statement, the Nittany Lion backs have scored six touchdowns on the ground, and all five of their touchdowns on Saturday came in that variety.
While Singleton had the long run, Allen made his money working close to the goal-line, scoring both of his touchdowns from six yards or closer.
“I think Kaytron has really good vision, and he takes a four-yard run to a 12- or 16-yard run on a consistent basis,” James Franklin said.
Auburn is dealing with a great deal of turmoil as athletic director Allen Green stepped away from the university in August, and coach Bryan Harsin is rumored to be on the hot seat.
Despite the off-field distractions for the Tigers, their defensive line is amongst the best in the nation, with defensive end Derrick Hall making plays all over the field.
The matchup in 2022 was completely different from the one a year ago, Auburn dominated on the ground while Penn State attacked primarily through the air.
A year later and it was the Nittany Lions running all over the Tigers at Jordan-Hare and doing it when everyone knows they’re running.
“That’s one of my favorite quotes. Move a man from Point A to Point B against his will,” Tengwall said. “Everybody in the stadium knows you’re running, and you can still get four, five, six, seven yards. It’s big time.”
Alex Rocco is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email email@example.com.
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