James Franklin explains usage of Penn State RB Noah Cain vs. Michigan
Penn State got an important 28-21 victory over Michigan on Saturday in Happy Valley, which is usually enough to satisfy the fans of any fanbase. But there were a few who were left scratching their heads following the victory.
Why? They wanted to know why freshman running back Noah Cain didn’t see more of the field in the win.
Cain has been Penn State’s leading running back this season, taking 62 carries for 329 yards and six touchdowns. He’s also caught six passes for 50 yards on the year. But against Michigan, the freshman carried the ball just five times for 19 yards, and caught one pass for three yards.
Those were some of his lowest totals of the year. It was particularly surprising because, over the last two weeks, Cain rushed for 105 yards against Purdue and 102 yards against Iowa, scoring two total touchdowns on 34 totes.
So, why didn’t Cain see more playing time? Franklin had a long-winded answer that essentially boiled down to Penn State having a deep and talented running back room.
“We have four backs that we really like and we’ll continue to play those guys,” Franklin said on Tuesday.” We’re very pleased with Noah. Actually had dinner with Noah last night. My wife was busting his chops. He’s been great. He’s been really good. We’re as pleased with him as you guys are, and we’re as pleased with him as the fans are, as well, but we also have a lot of confidence in those three other guys, as well.
“So I get it. I get the question. I think there’s a lot of ways that you guys see us with young players, a lot like Micah Parsons, who never started a game last year. Obviously the difference is Micah played starter reps, but we didn’t have four guys at that position.
“We’re 1-0. We found a way to get a win last week against one of the more talented rosters in the country, against a really good football program, and Noah had a big part in that and will continue to have a big part in that. I think you’ll see his role grow as the season goes on, or you’re going to see another back take some steps, as well. We’ll see.”
Penn State does have Journey Brown, Devyn Ford and Ricky Slade all battling for snaps alongside Cain. None of those backs saw many carries against the Wolverines, as the four combined for 13 carries. Slade had the best outing, churning out 48 yards on just three touches.
Maybe the rushing attack wasn’t a huge aspect of Penn State’s game plan against Michigan. Or maybe Franklin wanted to divvy up the carries a little more equally this weekend.
Either way, there are questions about why Cain didn’t see more touches. We’ll see if things change this week against Michigan State.