Penn State’s backfield continues to improve despite setbacks.

The Nittany Lions have faced adversity all season. Starting with COVID-19, forcing some of their best players to opt out. However, they were still ranked the eighth best football team in the big ten before the season began. A large part of that was due to their potent backfield. Even without Journey Brown, they were seen as having one of the best backfields in the country. But similar to the way this year has been going, our expectations have not panned out. Penn State lost Noah Cain early in the season, forcing them to be down their top two backs. No doubt about it, it showed early in the season.

Sean Clifford, Penn State QB, led the team in rushing through the first four weeks. Not the best sign. Penn State didn’t have a back go over 100 yards until their first win against Maryland. Against Iowa their backs only combined for a whopping 16 yards. The average yards per carry was under 3.5 for most of the season, now sitting at 3.9. With the absence of Brown & Cain, it’s been hard to find a workhorse back in this inexperienced backfield. Keyvone Lee & Caziah Holmes are just freshman; Devyn Ford a sophomore.

Through seven weeks, they might have found the solution. Keyvone Lee now sits as the leading rusher for Penn State after getting more touches in recent weeks. His breakout game came against rival Michigan, when he had 22 touches for 134 yards and a touchdown. He’s averaging 5.6 yards per attempt, the highest for Penn State. Will Levis has also been a productive piece for Penn State. He’s stepped in for struggling Sean Clifford at times and has been serviceable, but he’s been most productive as a runner. He’s a great plug-in on third down and short yardage situations. He’s a tough, athletic kid who has 213 rushing yards and 3 TDs on the season.

We should expect to see a heavier dose of Keyvone Lee getting touches. QBs leading your team in rushing isn’t sustainable. The combination of young backs for Penn State looks good for the future, and should only improve when Noah Cain returns.

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