In Penn State’s first three games, the team has yet to score a touchdown on the ground.
However, the goose egg in the Nittany Lions’ rushing touchdown column isn’t setting off any alarms for players. In fact, senior center Matt Stankiewitch wasn’t even aware of the fact until recently.
“Yeah, I actually just found that out. I thought we had a few rushing touchdowns, I didn’t even realize it,” Stankiewitch said. “… No, that’s not a big deal for us. If we rush it in, if we throw it in, a touchdown is a touchdown for us, but that doesn’t concern us as an offense. Hopefully this week we’ll get a couple rushing touchdowns.”
Penn State has scored a total of nine touchdowns this season, with eight of them coming from the arm of Matt McGloin and the other on a fumble return by linebacker Mike Hull. The team is averaging 107.7 rushing yards per game and 3.5 per carry but has yet to find pay dirt.
Coach Bill O’Brien said he thinks he can do a better job of play calling near the goal line in order to have someone in his backfield put points on the board.
“We’re definitely looking for improvement in the running game, and we can run the ball,” O’Brien said. “The offensive line has done a really good job of run blocking for the most part. It’s probably more me having to call more runs and get them into the game a little bit more.”
The Lions ran seven plays from Navy’s 10-yard line or closer in their win Saturday and just two of those plays were runs. And though O’Brien chose to attack through the air near the goal line against Navy, Penn State’s offense has had a good balance in the redzone (13 runs and 16 passes in 29 plays).
“In areas where we run the ball, we’re doing pretty well,” senior fullback Michael Zordich said. “If we get in the redzone, or wherever we’re at, we get the play call and we have to run whatever play is called. I wouldn’t say we’re not able to get in [the endzone].”
Due to injuries, Penn State has had three different starting running backs in three games.
Bill Belton missed the Lions’ second two games with a hurt ankle after starting the opener. Derek Day — the week two starter — was held out of last week’s game with a shoulder injury, so senior Curtis Dukes started and evenly split 22 carries with Zordich.
As of Tuesday, Penn State’s running back situation is again uncertain for the weekend with Belton and Day listed as “possible” on the injury report and O’Brien didn’t elaborate much on the situation. However, Stankiewitch sounded confident, no matter what back was running behind him and the line.
“Each tailback that we have has a lot of experience. Zordich has been playing for the past three years, Dukes got a lot of carries last year,” Stankiewitch said. “… It’s not really a big difference, finding that right running back to have the right holes and the right schemes and everything. It’s a process, but we’re going to get there.”