In this past weekend’s game against the Wisconsin Badgers, Penn State . . . struggled, is probably the best way to put it, on offense.
The first half saw the Lions total just 43 yards, and through three quarters, Penn State had negative 2 rushing yards. Negative 2!
Then, needing a score, one Noah Cain put the offense on his shoulders, and the Lions came to life - ultimately winning the game.
Following his freshman campaign in 2019, Cain and Journey Brown were set to be the Lions’ 1-2 punch in 2020. When Journey had to medically retire, Noah was suddenly going to be the feature back for Penn State. Then disaster struck, and on the first series of the season against Indiana, Cain was injured, and sidelined for the season. He rehabbed, but with the emergence of Keyvone Lee, as well as talented backs Devyn Ford and Caziah Holmes on the roster, Noah’s role was certainly in question as the 2021 season neared.
As it was, Cain earned the starting gig, and got the first play of the game . . . a rush for a loss of a yard.
In fact, through the end of the third quarter, Cain had 2 rushes for 3 yards. He’d been targeted three times in the passing game, with one incompletion, and two catches for negative 3 yards. It cannot be understated how good the Badgers defense is, but that is not a fantastic stat line.
Trailing by 3, with 13:36 to go in the game, the Lions began a drive from their 32. On first down, Noah ripped off a huge rush, rumbling for 34 yards to the Wisconsin 34.
Two plays later, facing a third and 4, Cain was targeted by Sean Clifford, and appeared to be tackled short of the line to gain, before he shook off his defender, and plowed ahead for 13 yards to the 15. Three plays later, the Lions tied the game at 10.
Following a 3-and-out by the Badgers, Noah picked up where he left off the previous drive, picking up 5 yards on first down. Following a huge pass to Jahan Dotson, Cain caught another pass for 16 yards to the 5 yard line. On the very next play, Noah punched in the game-winning touchdown, and the Lions held on for one of the biggest road wins of James Franklin’s career.
The Lions rotated through their running backs, trying to find something that would work against Wisconsin. No one could get anything going until Noah Cain reentered the rotation in the fourth, caught a spark, and didn’t let go the entire rest of the game. Were it not for the fourth-quarter emergence of the run game, it’s not that far fetched to think the Lions may have left Madison empty handed.
So welcome back, Noah Cain, and here’s to your return as the #1 RB for Penn State!