First, the team announced starting running back and top NFL prospect Journey Brown could miss the entire season with an undisclosed medical condition. Then, the Nittany Lions were upset by Indiana last Saturday after a questionable goal-line call to end the game.
On Tuesday, head coach James Franklin announced another devastating injury to the offense. Penn State is limping into its marquee matchup against Ohio State this week as they try to avoid going 0-2.
Penn State lost starting RB Journey Brown before the season
Journey Brown made a name for himself down the stretch of the 2019 season. Over the last five games of the year, Brown rushed for 593 yards and nine touchdowns. He capped off his breakout season with 202 rushing yards and two touchdowns against Memphis in the Cotton Bowl.
Brown was expected to be one of the best returning running backs in the NCAA in 2020, but his season might’ve ended before it even started. A week before Penn State’s season opener against Indiana, the team announced Brown would miss most or all of the season with an undisclosed medical condition.
The news was a huge blow for Penn State’s offense, and the Nittany Lions missed Brown in their first game against the Hoosiers. Noah Cain was expected to replace Brown as the main ball carrier this season, but he went down with an injury early in the season opener.
Noah Cain suffers season-ending injury
After just three carries, Cain left the game Saturday with what looked to be a left leg injury. He went to the locker room and emerged with a boot on his left foot, signaling he would be out for the rest of the game and probably even longer.
On Tuesday, Franklin revealed Cain suffered a season-ending foot injury against Indiana.
“Love Noah, so much respect for Noah,” Franklin said. “He really had an unbelievable offseason and worked really hard for this opportunity.”
Cain was impressive as a true freshman last season. He averaged 5.3 yards per carry and scored eight touchdowns playing behind Brown. Cain would’ve been a serviceable replacement to Brown this year, but Penn State will have to finish the season without both star running backs.
Do the Nittany Lions have any chance against Ohio State?
With Brown and Cain out of the lineup, Penn State will turn to Devyn Ford, Caziah Holmes, and Keyvone Lee to lead the backfield. Lee, a true freshman, was the most efficient runner last week with 35 yards rushing on six carries, but Ford will jump into the starting role this Saturday.
The Nittany Lions are in danger of starting the season 0-2, as they’re set to host No. 3 Ohio State at Beaver Stadium this week. The Buckeyes rolled over Nebraska, 52-17, to start their season, and they have national championship hopes going forward.
Without its two best running backs, Penn State will need QB Sean Clifford to play Superman on Saturday night. The Nittany Lions enter the game as 12.5-point home underdogs.
All stats courtesy of Sports Reference