Penn State Football

‘The stats didn’t really lie’: Penn State’s rushing woes addressed, fixed last week

Each and every Tuesday, Penn State coordinator Joe Moorhead gives the Nittany Lions a rundown of how the offense is looking and what the plan is for the upcoming week.

He always harps on balance between the passing and running game — but last Tuesday, the latter got a little more attention.

“We don’t need to be one-dimensional. That was one of the main points Coach Moorhead brought up, to be a more balanced offense and get the running game going,” offensive tackle Chasz Wright recalled on a Tuesday conference call. “Honestly, that put most of the responsibility on us — to come off the ball and have a finisher’s mentality at all times.”

For the first time in a long time, Wright and the offensive line had that against Nebraska. Penn State ran all over the Cornhuskers on Saturday as Saquon Barkley racked up 158 of the team’s 263 rushing yards, the Nittany Lions’ second-highest total on the ground all season.

That’s a far cry from what Penn State managed previously. Barkley tallied 142 total yards in his three games prior to the 56-44 win over Nebraska. The Heisman Trophy candidate had only 35 yards on 14 carries against lowly Rutgers.

Wright said the linemen came to a realization “that the stats didn’t really lie” in regards to the Nittany Lions’ anemic ground game.

He and the blockers constantly hear from Moorhead and position coach Matt Limegrover that the running game should be a focus. But head coach James Franklin believes it was emphasized “maybe a little bit more so” last Tuesday.

Wright agreed.

“Coach Limegrover and mostly Coach Moorhead proposed a challenge to us as far as approaching practice with a lot more physical mentality,” Wright said. “That’s something that we’ve always tried to instill within us, but I think now that the season is wrapping up, we want to make a point to make sure that we have that physical mentality at all times and not just picking and choosing when we want to use it.

“This past game shows that we can really do it. That’s something that we know we can do.”

Now, it’s just a matter of doing the same against Maryland.

John McGonigal: 814-231-4630, @jmcgonigal9