Lion TB Redd Hitting His Stride

Despite dealing with a minor injury, the sophomore has been the focal point of an improved ground attack at Penn State.

Penn State tailback Silas Redd, who to date has rushed for more yards than anyone else in the Big Ten, revealed during a conference call with reporters Wednesday that he suffered “a couple stingers” during last Saturday's 34-24 victory over Northwestern.

He said the injury has not curtailed him in practice this week, and he expects to play Saturday, when the Nittany Lions (7-1) host Illinois (6-2).

Redd has rushed for over 100 yards in each of the Lions' last four games, and for the season has 869 yards on 165 carries, 5.3 per carry and 108.6 per game. He is listed as the conference's third-leading rusher, behind Wisconsin's Montee Ball (768 yards, 109.7 per game) and Michigan's Denard Robinson (762, 108.9), each of whom has played one fewer game.

Redd, a sophomore, described a stinger as “like when you hit your funny bone real hard, but it's throughout your whole arm.” He said he has been icing the injury, but does not expect it to slow him down at all. Nor does he believe he is wearing down as the Lions head into a difficult stretch run, even though he has carried the ball 103 times for 566 yards over the last four games.

“I know my willpower,” he said. “I know the focus I have to make sure my body is right and make sure everything is in line for these next games. I take it upon myself to make sure I get better and make sure I stay healthy.”

His roommate and running mate, fullback Michael Zordich, likewise believes Redd will be fine for the Illini, as well as a November gauntlet that includes a home game against Nebraska and road tests against Ohio State and Wisconsin.

“He works, man,” Zordich said Tuesday. “He works real hard. He's a tough kid, and he's got a lot of guys working hard for him.”

While the Lions are just eighth in the Big Ten in rushing offense (168.9), they have established a smashmouth identity over their last four games, running the ball 182 times (as opposed to 112 passes) for 803 yards. In their first four games they ran it just 139 times, while throwing 131.

Redd had a career-high 164 yards on just 18 carries against Northwestern, but in the previous three games had 29 carries (for 129 yards) against Indiana, 28 (for 142) against Iowa and 28 (for 131) against Purdue.

He said he has fully embraced his role as a feature back, and is only too happy to share the success he has enjoyed with his teammates.

“It's great,” he said, “for the offensive morale.”

Certainly that group has come full circle in the last month, as Zordich noted.

“We've known all season that we have to be physical,” he said, “and I think that a couple of those (early) games, especially the Temple game, were just a wakeup call for us. Once we got those wakeup calls, I think everybody realized what we actually have to be to get things done and win in the Big Ten.”

Especially the guys up front.

“They've improved a great deal from training camp all the way up 'til now,” Redd said. “They're only getting better. … They definitely have more attitude. I feel like they're more aggressive, more confident in the run blocking and the pass blocking.”

The Illini, losers of two straight, are tied for second in the Big Ten (with Penn State) in rush defense, allowing just 101.9 yards per game on the ground. Redd is impressed by the speed of their front seven -- “They fly to the ball,” he said -- and believes Illinois is the best defensive team the Lions have seen since Alabama.

Last year the Illini handed the Lions a 33-13 defeat in Beaver Stadium. But as Redd said, “Last year is last year. They had the better team last year. … But this is a new year -- a new team for them and a new team for us, so we'll do everything in our power to win.”

One more thing, too.

“We're kind of building our own destiny here,” he said. “Every game is like a playoff. As long as we keep winning, we'll keep moving forward to our main goal, a Big Ten championship. That's our focus right now -- just to keep winning.”

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