Despite packing it in a bit in the middle two quarters, Penn State waltzed past Purdue 35-7 in front of 106,500 people at Beaver Stadium on Sunday.
These our are top takeaways from that win.
1.) Noah Cain is the guy, guys.
Through the first five games of the season, Penn State has rotated four talented backs in and out of the offense. Ricky Slade was the rightful day one start, but has struggled thus far. Journey Brown has had flashes, but hasn’t quite had the big play effect that some expected. Devyn Ford, a highly touted freshman, has shown well but has played mostly in late-game situations. Noah Cain, however, has been fantastic.
The freshman from IMG Academy in Florida via Texas led the Nittany Lions with 105 yards rushing and one touchdown on 12 carries. Cain also had three catches for 25 yards. He’s shown his versatility and a surprising amount of burst, and most importantly he’s shown the ability to see a hole and hit it. Penn State should continue to rotate its running backs, but Cain should get the (Nittany) lion’s share of the carries.
2) Sean Clifford has to be more consistent
Let me be clear, Sean Clifford certainly wasn’t bad on Saturday. In fact, I thought he was quite good for most of the game. But he’s going to have to get a bit more consistent. The Nittany Lions has a three-game stretch coming up against maybe the top three defenses they’ll face all year (Ohio State may have something to say about this) and Clifford will need to be on top of his game. His interception on Saturday was badly under-thrown and at times following that he was a bit hesitant to pull the trigger. Clifford doesn’t lack for confidence and he’ll need all of it going forward.
3) The defensive line has arrived
For the first month of the season many Penn State fans, myself included, were decrying the lack of the penetration the defensive line was getting both in the run and pass games. Well, whatever the unit figured out against Maryland has clearly stuck. The Wild Dogz (TM) were incredible against Purdue, recording 13 tackles for loss and 10 sacks, which is one shy of a program record. Yetur Gross-Matos looked every bit the All-American caliber player that he is and Shaka Toney showed his prowess as a lethal pass rusher. Add in strong showings from Fred Hansard and Robert Windsor and you have a recipe for success.