Penn State blanks Kent State, 24-0: Royster sits as Lions prevail
September 19, 2010 4:00 AM
Gene J. Puskar/AP
Two Penn State fans in masks -- one of which you might recognize -- cheer after a fourth-quarter touchdown.
Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press
Quarterback Rob Bolden, right, is knocked out of bounds by Kent State's Josh Pleasant.
Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press
Penn State's Derek Moye is brought down by Kent State's Josh Pleasant, but not before gaining 55 yards -- a career long -- on a pass from Rob Bolden in the first quarter Saturday.
By Ron Musselman Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Penn State tailback Evan Royster slipped out the side door Saturday, avoiding reporters.
It arguably could have been his best move all year.
Royster, a fifth-year senior who entered this season needing 481 yards to become the Nittany Lions' all-time leading rusher, has been mired in a slump.
He scored his first rushing touchdown of the season Saturday on a 3-yard run and became the sixth running back in school history to surpass 3,000 yards for his career. But Royster was held to 38 yards on 11 carries and lost a fumble on the first play of the third quarter in No. 22 Penn State's 24-0 victory against Kent State (1-2) before 100,610 fans at Beaver Stadium.
After his miscue, Royster made only a cameo appearance the rest of the second half as backup tailback Stephfon Green and third-stringer Silas Redd got the bulk of the carries.
Green, a redshirt junior, finished as the leading rusher, gaining 59 yards on 11 carries, while Redd, a freshman, had 24 yards on six attempts.
Royster was limited to 4 yards on three carries in the second half. He watched most of the action from the sideline with his helmet off.
"He's a senior and we felt it was about time to get some of the other guys into the game and get them some experience," coach Joe Paterno said, explaining his decision to sit Royster. "I thought Green ran hard and we wanted to get Redd some playing time."
The big question now is whether Paterno will get to 400 wins before Royster breaks Curt Warner's school record of 3,398 yards. Paterno picked up his 396th victory Saturday; Royster still needs 371 rushing yards to pass Warner.
Left tackle Quinn Barham said "we're worried" about Royster's lack of production.
Royster, who has rushed for more than 1,000 yards in each of the past two seasons, explored entering the NFL draft last year. But when scouts told him he needed to improve in a number of areas, he opted to return for his final season.
This year got off to a bad start for Royster when Paterno criticized him for being too heavy at 220 pounds.
"He's a great back and I think he's going to get it together," said right guard Stefen Wisniewski from Central Catholic High School. "I think he's probably struggling a little bit because he's not getting as many carries as he's used to. That's making it tougher for him to get into a game.
"[But] I'd be surprised if he doesn't get [the rushing record]."
Green, who has been plagued by injuries throughout his career, had all of his yards in the second half. He averaged 5.4 yards per carry as Penn State (2-1) compiled a season-high 162 yards on the ground.
But Green, who has 104 yards rushing this season, 6 fewer than Royster's 110, would not bite on a question about whether he deserved to be the No. 1 tailback.
"Look, we're not going to get into any controversy about that," he said. "It's up to the coaches upstairs. We're all competitors. You got to include Silas Redd because he's a step away from taking both of our spots.
"We all prepare ourselves to be the No. 1 guy."
Freshman quarterback Rob Bolden had an up-and-down day in his third start. He ran for 33 yards and scored his first touchdown on a 1-yard sneak in the first quarter. He completed 17 of 27 passes for 217 yards and a touchdown -- a 48-yard pass to wide receiver Devon Smith in the fourth quarter -- but Bolden also tossed two interceptions, giving him five for the season.
"I didn't think Bolden had a particularly good game," Paterno said.
NOTES -- Penn State will play Temple at 3:30 p.m. Saturday. The Owls are 3-0 for the first time since 1979, but have not scored a touchdown against the Lions since 2003. ... Wide receiver Derek Moye, from Rochester, had four catches for 87 yards, including a career-long 55-yarder. ... Collin Wagner kicked a 27-yard field goal, but missed from 43 yards. ... Strong safety Drew Astorino's bothersome shoulder limited him primarily to playing in the nickel package. ... Penn State's defense, which held Kent State to 228 yards of offense, forced its first two turnovers as cornerbacks Derrick Thomas and D'Anton Lynn had interceptions. ... Defensive ends Pete Massaro and Sean Stanley earned their first career starts, replacing Jack Crawford and Eric Latimore. ... Defensive tackle Devon Still and Crawford registered sacks.