More Challenges for Penn State Football
In a season full of challenges, Penn State will face yet another blow to overcome.
Tuesday, head coach James Franklin confirmed that sophomore running back Noah Cain will miss the remainder of the 2020 season.
Cain left Saturday’s game against Indiana with a foot injury in the second quarter. Franklin did not comment on the nature of Cain’s season-ending injury.
This news comes just a week after the announcement that junior running back Journey Brown could miss the entirety of the 2020 season with a medical condition. Brown was not active against Indiana, and he was not listed on Tuesday’s depth chart for this week’s game.
With Cain out for the season and Brown out indefinitely, the burden to lead the young running back room is now on sophomore Devyn Ford, listed on the depth chart ahead of freshman backs Keyvone Lee and Caziah Holmes.
Ford played well on Saturday in Cain’s absence, posting 69 yards on 20 carries and scoring a touchdown; albeit the controversial touchdown that gave Penn State a 28-20 lead late and allowed Indiana to tie the game on the ensuing drive.
Franklin understands that preparing Ford to take over the lead role will be a challenge in itself, but he has confidence in the sophomore back’s ability to take that next step.
“We’re going to have to change our mentality,” Franklin said. “There is a difference between being the lead dog and being a rotational piece. But I think he’ll grow into that. There’s no doubt that [Ford] has the talent to do that.”
This major change comes at a troubling time, as the Nittany Lions are set to face what will most likely be their most difficult opponent on the schedule in the Ohio State Buckeyes this weekend.
Ohio State, champion of the Big Ten in each of the past three seasons, is coming off a 52-17 victory over Nebraska, a game in which Heisman-contending quarterback Justin Fields scored three touchdowns and completed 20 of his 21 passes.
The Nittany Lions haven’t defeated Ohio State since 2016, but Franklin said has he hope in his team’s ability to perform under the pressure.
“We’ve found a way to beat them when very few have,” Franklin said. “We’ve played them to the wire. Sometimes, those games are the most painful for everybody. But I wouldn’t trade that. We’ve had the opportunity to win some of those games.”
Meanwhile, Ohio State head coach Ryan Day was praiseful of Penn State, acknowledging the tough loss the Nittany Lions took last week and how they’ll be preparing for the challenge that Saturday’s game presents.
“I think they look excellent on all three phases, and I think they look well-coached,” Day said. “They’re always going to be hungry when they play us. But when you lose a game like that, everybody gets even more hungry.”
Saturday’s game, initially scheduled as Penn State’s annual White Out, will be without fans due to the COVID-19 pandemic, meaning the Nittany Lions’ environmental edge won’t be as strong as usual.
“Would you love for this community to have a White Out? Yes, I think it’s one of the special things about college football,” Franklin said. “But we’re also appreciative of the sacrifices and compromises that were made that allowed us to have a season.”
Franklin also acknowledged the negative impact that the absence of the White Out will have on the future, as White-Out Weekend is typically one of the top times of year for Penn State football recruiting.
From daunting opponents, to another devastating roster loss, to a lack of direct community involvement, adversity continues to be a theme for Penn State football in 2020.
DJ Bauer is a senior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Senior / Broadcast Journalism