STATE COLLEGE — Noah Cain lined up to the left of quarterback Sean Clifford during Penn State’s second drive of the third quarter last Saturday against Pittsburgh.
The freshman running back took the handoff and squeezed through a hole created by center Michal Menet and right guard C.J. Thorpe. Cain exploded through the first level of the Pittsburgh defense and scampered to the end zone for a 13-yard touchdown.
Cain’s go-ahead score capped a 13-play drive that spanned 88 yards. It was Cain’s only action of the game, but he made it count. He tallied six carries for 40 yards and caught one pass for 13 yards during his lone drive.
“I’ve told you guys before, he is not going to do a whole lot that blows you away — he’s just so productive.” Penn State head coach James Franklin said. “He’s going to get a 4-yard run and fall for 6, he’s going to get a 3-yard run and fall for 5.”
Cain didn’t re-enter the game after his 13-yard touchdown run.
“That was one of the things that on the headset right after, on that last drive we probably should have subbed him in because that would have been a good situation for his style of running,” Franklin said. “But I thought he played really well.”
Cain might only be a freshman, but he hasn’t let his youth determine his standing in the Nittany Lions’ backfield.
Through three games, he’s tallied 86 yards on 16 carries behind a 5.4 yards-per-carry average. Cain’s four touchdowns lead all Penn State running backs. He scored two touchdowns in his Penn State debut against Idaho and added another against Buffalo.
Cain arrived in Happy Valley in January as an early enrollee from IMG Academy (Bradenton, Florida). He was considered a four-star recruit by 247Sports and held a host of offers from college football titans such as Clemson, LSU, Texas, Georgia and others.
Cain flashed a glimpse of his talent during Penn State’s Blue-White game in April, where he scored two touchdowns to go with 45 yards rushing on 12 carries.
Penn State this season boasts a well-stocked running back room, and Franklin hasn’t had any qualms using all four -- Cain, redshirt sophomore Journey Brown, sophomore Ricky Slade and freshman Devyn Ford.
Each player brings a specific strength to the field, and Franklin said he’ll continue to use the quartet as the season progresses.