Penn State walk-on running back Chiappialle impresses big crowd
April 12, 2014 10:15 PM
Cole Chiappialle looks for an opening in Saturday’s Blue-White scrimmage in University Park, Pa. He rushed for 63 yards on nine carries and scored two touchdowns.
By Mark Dent / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- He played like the featured back Saturday. Four times in a row, a running back pretty much nobody had heard of -- unless you're from Beaver County and football-savvy -- ran the ball near the end zone, crashing in on the fourth down. Cole Chiappialle had his first touchdown for Penn State.
It was just the Blue-White game, but Chiappialle called it the experience of a lifetime. A sophomore walk-on from Blackhawk High School, he sparked the Blue team, which consisted of most of Penn State's key players, to a 37-0 victory against the White team.
Chiappialle -- it's pronounced chip-ee-alle, but everyone just calls him "Chip" -- had offers from several Division II schools, Robert Morris and a walk-on offer from Temple when Penn State began recruiting him as a walk-on last winter. Once former coach Bill O'Brien and assistant Charlie Fisher offered, he committed the same day.
"My mentality is I knew I could play here if given the opportunity and [by] working hard," he said. "I wanted to play at the highest level."
He scored another touchdown, this one on a 23-yard rush, shortly after his first and finished with 63 yards on nine carries and two touchdowns.
Quarterback Christian Hackenberg played for three series, with coach James Franklin saying he wanted freshman Michael O'Connor to get more playing time. O'Connor completed 11 of 16 passes for 81 yards. The Blue team defense held the backup White team offense to 50 total yards. Defensive end C.J. Olaniyan had a team-high five tackles and 2.5 sacks.
"I think the defense is ahead," Franklin said. "I don't think there's any doubt about that."
Franklin was in true crowd-pleasing form, which for these first three months of his tenure seems to be his default setting. At the start of the second quarter, he led the stadium in a "We Are" chant, remembering to end with the all-important "Thank you." He stood behind the offense throughout, wearing slacks, a navy polo and a whistle.
After the game, Franklin brought his two young daughters to sit with him at his news conference. He also claimed the real attendance was 82,000, not the announced 72,000. He had pressed Penn State fans beforehand to reach the 80,000 mark.
"Unbelievable support from this community," he said on a day when no jackets were necessary after 10 a.m. "I'm not surprised one bit."
Chiappialle was asked after the game if he knew Aric Heffelfinger. As a walk-on in 2002, he had a similar performance. And then he didn't contribute significantly again.
Chiappialle has worn a green bracelet since high school with the words "Prove People Wrong." He doesn't envision this as the end.
"For me, it's the beginning," he said.
Franklin said offensive lineman Anthony Alosi is suspended indefinitely. Alosi is facing charges of simple assault related to an incident in January. His preliminary hearing is scheduled for April 23.
The loss of Alosi has caused even more complications for an offensive line with depth concerns. It didn't help that center Wendy Laurent hobbled off the field Saturday and didn't return.
But Penn State appeared to avoid any serious injury issues similar to last year when running back Zach Zwinak broke his wrist early in the game.
Another top recruit
Before the game, North Potomac, Md., defensive end Adam McLean committed to Penn State, announcing his decision on Twitter. He is Penn State's 12th committed recruit for the class of 2015 and for the time being, 247 Sports has Penn State's recruiting class ranked No. 1 in the nation.
Mark Dent: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-439-3791 and Twitter @mdent05
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