A new week means a new running back for which Penn State must prepare. And after facing a string of outstanding runners the past few games, the Nittany Lions might be encountering the best of the bunch at Iowa this weekend.
After sitting out last year, Hawkeye junior Shonn Greene has returned in impressive fashion, pounding out 1,257 yard and 11 scores in just nine games. His yards-per-game average (139.7) ranks third in the nation.
After holding Ohio State's Chris Beanie Wells to 55 yards on 22 carries in Columbus last time out, Penn State is bracing for the 5-foot-11, 235-pound Greene.
I wouldn't really compare him to anybody, PSU senior defensive end Josh Gaines said. I think he's probably one of the most explosive backs we'll see this year. He's a big guy, he runs low to the ground. He's fast and he makes moves very quickly.
He sees holes before they're there, Gaines added.
Iowa quarterback Ricky Stanzi, who replaced struggling incumbent Jake Christensen earlier this season, has had issues of his own. Stanzi is completing less than 60 percent of his passes and has been intercepted six times. He has also been dropped for 114 yards in losses, most of them on sacks.
With that in mind, it would seem to make sense for the Lions to stack the line.
To tell you the truth, that's the scheme for every football game, Gaines said. You want to stop the run first and then make the team air the ball out.
Gaines and his fellow defensive linemen will face a Hawkeye offense that rushes the ball nearly 40 times per game.
However, Penn State defensive coordinator Tom Bradley and defensive line coach Larry Johnson rotate the linemen often, letting them go all out on every play without fear of wearing down.
We have such a crazy rotation, you can go hard every play, Gaines said. The thing is, they're going to push you harder in practice than what you're going to be pushed in a game.
When you're in practice, you're going to be more exhausted than you would be for a game, he added. For a game, the most I've played this year is maybe 50 some plays, and that was early in the season. Right now, we've got a few guys back, so the most I'm playing right now is 35-40 plays, which isn't a lot.
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