PSU Football vs. Auburn, highfive
Penn State tight end Tyler Warren (44) high fives offensive lineman Landon Tengwall (58) during the Penn State vs. Auburn game on Saturday, Sept. 17, 2022 in Auburn Al. The Nittany Lions defeated the Tigers 41-12.

Through all aspects of life, balance leads to success and fulfillment.

That’s no different on a football field, in a game reliant on two sides of the ball and multiple units on both the offense and defense.

Over the past two seasons, Penn State’s offensive line and run game greatly imbalanced the team’s offensive attack. In its 41-12 win at Auburn, however, pieces began to fall into place — in the form of zero sacks given up and 245 rushing yards — to leave the Nittany Lions with likely their most well-rounded team performance in years.

“To beat them on the road and handle crowd noise, which can be challenging for an offensive line,” James Franklin said Tuesday, “I do think it was a step in the right direction.”

Franklin has stated multiple times since preseason camp that he will not “pound the table” on his offensive line for the foreseeable future this season, fearing that if he says “something positive, something won't go well.”

Through three games in 2022, Franklin’s strategy seems to be working — but so are Penn State’s seven “starting” offensive linemen, including offensive tackle Bryce Effner and guard Hunter Nourzad, who Franklin calls starters despite him not actually starting a game this season.

“To have an amazing run game is awesome,” Effner said Wednesday. “We've really worked at it, and I think it's just finally clicking, so it's just amazing to see.”

Their improvement hasn’t just been fun for the offensive line to see, it’s also been a breath of fresh air for the running backs, who have new gaps to work with that they hadn’t necessarily seen in years.

Running back Devyn Ford, the last active Nittany Lion from the 2019 ‘LawnBoyz’ team, is loving what the line has been capable of.

“Our offensive line is one of the best in the country,” Ford said. “To see their excitement, coming to the sideline happy, chest pumping, raising people in the air, that makes me excited as well.

“We know we’re doing something good in progressions for our offense if we’re getting down the field and scoring.”

Ford may not be the one scoring, not having done so since 2020. But others around him are scoring in bunches, especially freshman running backs Nick Singleton and Kaytron Allen, who each scored twice at Auburn.

Following Saturday’s victory, Franklin told reporters he has “not seen two guys have this type of success” this early in their careers, and for the most part, Ford agrees.

“When they touch the ball, we all hold our breath because you don't know what's gonna happen,” Ford said. “Whether it’s going to be a big play, big hit, big cut, don’t matter — the guys can do it all.”

When the Nittany Lions can run the ball, everything works better offensively.

Penn State was the most-sacked team in the Big Ten last season, partly because the offensive line didn’t play up to par but also because the majority of its play calls were centered around quarterback Sean Clifford with the run game underperforming.

With Singleton and Allen rejuvenating the Nittany Lions’ ground game, the entire offensive has opened up, giving Clifford some much needed breathing room.

“It helps him get a load off his shoulders,” Ford said. “He’s got a lot of pressure on him, so he does what he has to do and focuses on what he has to do. We handle our business, he handles his.”


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