Let’s be frank, Penn State hasn’t gotten enough out of Ricky Slade.
Penn State was finally putting all the pieces together after being down 10-7 to Buffalo and were driving on the first drive of the third quarter.
It finally seemed like Penn State was overcoming the slow start and they would be okay.
But then, a Ricky Salde fumble derailed the drive, handed the ball back to Buffalo and destroyed all the momentum Penn State had built.
The excitement in Beaver Stadium was gone and doubt was starting to creep into fan’s minds.
If it wasn’t for a John Reid pick six on the ensuing drive, this column could be about how Penn State’s season is over after an upset loss to Buffalo.
In the opening two games this season, Slade, Penn State’s starting running back, has eight attempts for 17 yards. While Penn State is averaging 5.9 yards per rush in the first two games, Slade is averaging just 2.1 yards per carry.
Slade also has one touchdown and the single fumble. His longest rush so far this season, against Idaho and Buffalo, is five yards. Five.
This needs to change. In order for Penn State to reach its goals of a Big Ten Championship and more this season, they need Slade.
The past few seasons, Penn State has had the services of Saquon Barkley and Miles Sanders, two running backs who’ve been able to make something happen from nothing.
Two running backs who had game-changing ability.
Two running backs who were a dependable, consistent threat on the offensive side of the ball.
And Slade has the potential to be this player. Slade has shown flashes of brilliance.
His coaches and teammates have said it. Slade is the most talented player in a very, very talented running back room. He just needs to show it.
Right now, Penn State is relying on the group of running backs to carry them.
Journey Brown, Noah Cain and Devyn Ford have all been consistent options beside Slade so far this season and that’s fine in the Nittany Lions first two games.
But when Big Ten play comes around, when the Nittany Lions are playing a team that’s on the same talent and athleticism level as them, they will need a consistent option in the backfield.
Penn State needs the level of play that Slade is capable of and they are going to need it soon.
The good news for Penn State is that’s it's only two games in and Slade has only had eight rushing attempts.
It’s been an incredibly small sample size so far for Slade.
And one big game, one big run could spark the start of an incredible season for Slade. He just needs the opportunity.
Penn State needs to start its game next Saturday against Pitt with a hand-off to Slade, then another one.
The Nittany Lions’ offensive line needs to open a hole for the running back and Slade needs to break a tackle and gain a first down.
Slade just needs some confidence, some reps under his belt and his lack of production will disappear.
Slade needs to reach his potential for Penn State to reach its and that all starts on Saturday when Penn State takes on Pitt in Beaver Stadium.