Penn State's Royster closes in on Warner's record


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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Slowly, but surely, Penn State tailback Evan Royster is inching closer to the school's all-time career rushing record.

He needs 31 more yards Saturday against Michigan to break former All-American Curt Warner's school record of 3,398.

It has been a tough season for Royster, who entered the year needing 481 yards to break that record, but has struggled to find running room while operating behind an inconsistent offensive line.

"I'll be glad when it's over," Royster said, when asked about the record for the umpteenth time. "I just want to stop hearing about it, have it behind me and kind of move on."

Royster, a fifth-year senior who rushed for 1,000 yards each of the past two seasons, has 450 yards on 88 carries and two touchdowns through seven games.

His total includes a 187-yard effort against Temple. He is averaging just 64.3 yards per game.

"Honestly, I don't really think about [the record]," said Royster, who has 3,368 career yards. "It's not that big of a thing for me at this point. I'm sure I will look back [later] and be happy that it happened. I'd rather win games."

When his career ended in 1982, Warner owned 42 school records, including most rushing yards and 100-yard games (18). Royster has 13, but only one this year.

Warner's rushing mark has stood for 28 years, but the College Football Hall of Famer is prepared for Royster to break it against the Wolverines.

"It's a great record," said Warner, who lives in Vancouver, Wash. "I was expecting him to break it earlier. But, obviously, things are not going according to plan for him, or for Penn State in general.

"To be honest, the record has stood a lot longer than I had anticipated. I like the idea of being No. 1, but I'm not playing anymore, so I kind of let that go. I have no complaints. I wish [Evan] all the best with the record."

Warner, a Pineville, W.Va., native, is the only Penn State running back to be selected as a two-time first team All-American. He helped the Lions compile a 31-5 record his final three seasons and played a key role in their first national championship in 1982.

Warner was a first-round draft pick of the Seattle Seahawks in 1983 and led the AFC in rushing twice in his eight seasons in the NFL.

He was a three-time Pro Bowl selection and gained 6,844 career yards and scored 56 touchdowns while playing for the Seahawks (1983-89) and Los Angeles Rams ('90).

Warner, who has worked a handful of games this season as a color analyst on ESPN3, said there was no special ceremony when he set Penn State's rushing record.

"I didn't even know I was the rushing leader until I was looking at the record book a few years later," he said. "That was the first time I had read it or heard of it."

Royster, 6 feet 1 and 218 pounds, has 566 carries to Warner's 649. Royster also has 25 rushing touchdowns to Warner's 24.

"My style is not his style, but, if it works for you, you go with it," Warner said.

Asked to talk about Royster becoming the school's all-time leading rusher, coach Joe Paterno offered few words.

"I think he's done a good job," Paterno said.

Royster debated skipping his final year of eligibility to enter the NFL draft before deciding to return. He said he has no regrets, but knows he must turn it on in the final five games to impress the NFL scouts.

"The end of this season could dictate the next five years of my life, and that's motivation," Royster said.


NOTES -- A source said Wednesday night that starting quarterback Rob Bolden passed the concussion test administered by the Penn State medical staff earlier in the day, but it remains to be seen if Bolden will play Saturday. He failed a similar test earlier this week. ... Penn State has turned to wide receivers Evan Lewis and Alex Kenney to emulate Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson in practice. "They had Evan Lewis wearing dreadlocks [Tuesday]," middle linebacker Chris Colasanti said Wednesday. "I guess [the coaches] wanted us to get the whole visual."


Ron Musselman: rmusselman@post-gazette.com


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