With Parker Washington out, Penn State dominates on the ground in victory against Rutgers
PISCATAWAY, N.J. — Penn State scored 55 points on Saturday, but its passing attack was limited to just 199 yards in the 55-10 victory over Rutgers.
The Nittany Lions were without their leading receiver Parker Washington for the first time this campaign, and they relied on the ground game.
The freshman running back duo of Kaytron Allen and Nicholas Singleton dominated for 179 yards and a touchdown, becoming the first Big Ten freshman duo to each rush for 700 or more yards in the same season.
“It’s been a while since that type of energy, and I appreciate it from both of them,” Sean Clifford said. “I see them getting better and better, and I can’t be more proud of them.”
Against Maryland, it was Singleton who dominated as he ran for 122 yards and two touchdowns, but Saturday was a different story.
Allen torched the Scarlet Knight defense rushing for 117 yards on 11 carries and a touchdown where he carried four defenders into the endzone on the nine-yard score.
In 2021, the blue and white failed to have a running back tally 100 rushing yards in a single game.
However, the improvement on the ground can’t be credited to just Singleton and Allen but to the entire offensive line, who have created newfound running lanes.
The offensive line has suffered injuries to left tackle Olu Fahsanu and left guard Landon Tengwall, but the unit has had several players step up.
Right guard Sal Wormley missed all of last season, but since his return in 2022, he’s seen major improvements up front.
“It shows that we’ve been doing something right as a unit,” Wormley said. “Our running backs are able to trust us and hit the holes or just believe in our blocks and know we’re going to make that block. It just shows as we're all coming together, we're all focused on the same thing.”
The trust the running backs have in the offensive line has both groups to play with more confidence.
That confidence has translated to improve pass blocking, even for Clifford, whose blindside blocker is now true freshman Drew Shelton.
“I think that everybody knew once he came in that he had the potential to contribute if needed,” Clifford said. “And we're late in the season now, and it's needed, and he's stepping up, and I can't be more proud of him.”
The offensive line isn’t the only group on the offense relying on its depth to play a significant role after injuries.
Clifford had trouble moving the ball through the air without Washington as he finished the game throwing for 157 yards and a touchdown.
Without Washington, Mitchell Tinsley led the team in receiving, racking up 63 yards on five catches while being targeted eight times.
When asked after the game about Washington’s injury, James Franklin said he has “not talked to” Washington about his situation, and he mentioned he would update his status to the media on Tuesday.
“Not having him for this game, that’s a big loss,” Franklin said. “As you guys know, a good percentage of our passing game has gone through him, not just this year but last year. He's a leader for us as well.”
In the victory, the blue and white had 10 different players record catches from Clifford and freshman Drew Allar.
KeAndre Lambert-Smith saw an uptick in targets with seven as he tallied three catches for just nine yards.
Harrison Wallace III helped fill the void left by Washington’s injury with three catches for 49 yards while being targeted four times.
If Washington is done for the season, Penn State is going to need receivers such as Lambert-Smith and Wallace III to play a major role in the passing game.
“I thought those other guys did a nice job,” Franklin said. “Obviously, we're gonna have to build on it, and we'll see how this plays out with Parker… either way, their rep count is going to go up.”
Alex Rocco is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email email@example.com.
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