The same folks that had not-so-subtly been whispering about Evan Royster's lack of production through the first three games will inevitably spend the next week talking loudly about his big, 187 yard on 26 carry performance against Temple. Apparantly, so will he, as he met with the media for the first time since the Youngstown State game after Saturday's win.
It feels good to show that I can still play the game," Royster said after gaining a career-high 187 yards on 26 carries. "I think a lot of people were thinking I couldn't anymore."
Royster must be giddy to give his critics something big to chew on like Saturday's game, but let's call a spade a spade here: the Evan Royster that showed up against Temple was not the Evan Royster we saw in the first three games. Against Temple, he was quick into the hole, tough after first contact and stable on his feet. Against Youngstown State, Alabama and Kent State he was not. The jury is still out on just how effective Evan Royster can be this season despite his big day.
That's why it appears a little phony of Royster to show up post-game on Saturday after letting his coaches and teammates take the arrows for his struggles for the first three weeks. In fact, it's almost Morelli-like. It's the kind of stuff that makes it clear why Brett Brackett was given to captain's job over him. I don't really fault players for not wanting to talk to the media. It's not their responsibility, and if they don't want to, they don't have to. That said, comes off a little selfish to use the media to talk yourself up when things go well, and hide from them when they go poorly. Even in a win last week against Kent State, Royster was absent.
The countdown to the record is on. Royster is now only 184 yards away from Curt Warner's all-time leading rushing mark. In all likelihood, he's looking at breaking the record against either Illinois in two weeks or Minnesota in three, but wouldn't it be great if he did it against Iowa?
Of course, being realistic, even in a Penn State win that's unlikely to happen. Iowa doesn't hand out rushing yards like candy, but for as fine as Royster's career has been, he's still lacking a "TWO K FOR LJ!" or Tony Hunt, Outback Bowl moment in his career. A big game on the road against Penn State's bugaboo in Iowa would go a long way toward establishing one, and searing him into the memories of Penn State fans for a long time to come.
He might have to have that signature game for Penn State to win, too.
For as promising as Robert Bolden's career appears to be, it's unlikely that he's ready to lead Penn State to victory on the road against a ranked team that just happens to own Penn State in his first conference game. It's times like these that you rely on your upperclassmen to get the job done, make plays, and will the team to victory.
It's time for Evan Royster to step up in a big game. It's time for him to prove he belongs in the same sentence as guys like Tony Hunt and Larry Johnson, let alone Ki-Jana Carter and Curt Warner. I don't want to hear about the offensive line. I don't want to hear about Iowa's run defense. I want to hear about Evan Royster standing up and showing the world just who he is under the lights on the big stage.
Being an all-time great is as much about moments as it is statistics. Royster surely has the statistics, and he's been a contributing member of some great Penn State teams, but it's time for him to etch his own name into history. Make no mistake, Saturday is the biggest game of his Penn State career. He can't do it all on his own, but if he really want to be "the man," this is the time to show it.