Healthy Improvement

Healthy Improvement

Penn State ground attack and Royster got well in the Nittany Lions' runaway win over Temple at Beaver Stadium Saturday. Also included is an FOS-TV interview.

The good news for Penn State in its 31-6 victory over Temple was that Evan Royster had a terrific game. The better news is that the junior tailback probably has room for improvement. He was feeling a bit wobbly Saturday while dealing with the lingering effects of a bad case of the flu and needed the better part of two quarters to get acclimated.

“The first quarter was kind of tough for me. My legs kind of felt like they were going,” Royster said. “But after halftime, I felt fine, and I just kept playing.”

Royster had struggled to find running room in Penn State's first two games, but his stat line on Saturday was straight out of his impressive sophomore season: 134 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries.

“It was only a matter of time,” Royster said. “Our offensive line blocked real well today, and we had some big plays.”

Royster said he never doubted he would play on Saturday, even though he was feeling ill much of the week. He said he felt sickest on Thursday night, and he was still running a 102 degree temperature on Friday, but he never missed practice. He and several other players -- mostly redshirting freshmen -- were given their own suites at the team hotel Friday night to stop the spread of the bug. It was a precautionary measure, and Royster said he wasn't feeling sluggish or tired after the game.

“I'm ready to go out to dinner with my family,” he said.

Penn State rushed for 186 yards against the Owls, nearly equaling its total from its first two games. After averaging 3.3 yards a carry against Akron and Syracuse, the Lions averaged 5.2 against the Owls.

That was cause for celebration in the Penn State locker room, where players were eager to address concerns about the state of the running game.

“It felt great,” center Stefen Wisniewski said. “I think we definitely could have been more consistent, but having some big plays is a good sign. … Having the gains of 4 yards, 5 yards, 6 yards -- that's a good sign. Even when the defense gives us something that's tough to block, we're still getting positive yardage, so we're excited about that.”

The Nittany Lions made one big change on their starting line, replacing Matt Stankiewitch with redshirt sophomore Johnnie Troutman at left guard. Troutman had come on in relief of the redshirt freshman against Syracuse when the Lions struggled against the Orange's high-pressure, eight-man front.

The other big change had to do with the defense the Nittany Lions faced. In contrast to Akron and Syracuse, which pulled up their safeties and encouraged Penn State to pass, Temple mostly used a seven-man front. The Owls' alignment created opportunities for the running game, and Joe Paterno was relieved that Penn State was able to take advantage.

“You've got to be able to be able to run when they only put seven in the box,” he said. “If we can't run with seven in the box, then I think we've really got some problems. The first two games we were playing against eight, nine in the box, which makes it tough, because you can't account for all of them, especially if you want to spread it out a little bit and throw the football.”

The Nittany Lions will get an even better indication how much progress they've made next week when they open their Big Ten season against Iowa. Wisniewski said from what he's seen, the Hawkeyes only blitz about 10 percent of the time, preferring instead to use stunts. He's eager to see how the Lions fare now that they've shown they can move the ball on the ground when the occasion calls for it.

“We're definitely confident now that we can run the ball, and we're confident we can pass it,” Wisniewski said. “Our goal now is to put it together in one game.”

Royster is confident as well. The Lions are coming off a 24-23 loss to the Hawkeyes last year that ended their national championship hopes, and they've lost six of the past seven games in the series, but their focus is on the here and now.

“If we do what we did this week,” Royster said, “we've got a pretty good shot.”

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