Penn State notebook: Franklin turns to Lynch with Zwinak out
UNIVERSITY PARK — The Akeel Lynch era might have begun in earnest at Penn State.
A school known for running backs, PSU’s future at the position (for 2015, at least) has been Lynch, a talented sophomore. But an injury to Zach Zwinak appears to have accelerated that timetable.
Playing their first game since learning Zwinak is out for the season, the Nittany Lions turned to Lynch as their feature back Saturday against Maryland, eschewing senior Bill Belton.
Lynch, who entered the game with 36 carries on the season, had 21 carries for 51 yards Saturday. Belton ended with eight carries for 14 yards.
“We were going to rotate those guys, (but) we felt like Akeel was really downhill with being decisive,” Franklin said. “And that’s just how it worked out.”
Belton had started every prior game this season.
O-line gets even greener
Wendy Laurent’s start against Maryland was the first of his career. It was at center, a move necessitated by the injuries along the left side of Penn State’s offensive line.
Guard Miles Dieffenbach remained in street clothes as he continues to recover from a torn ACL. Left tackle Donovan Smith did not practice all week after suffering an undisclosed injury late in last week’s double-overtime loss to Ohio State.
To compensate, Penn State moved freshman Andrew Nelson from right tackle to the left and shifted junior Angelo Mangiro from center to right tackle.
“(The offensive line) is an issue. It was an issue before, and we knew that last week,” Franklin said. “Then when you lose your starting left tackle, it becomes more of an issue.”
PSU’s starting offensive line Saturday entered this season with zero career starts and just two players who had appeared in a college game on the offensive line.
More like #102Kstrong
It was a late-arriving crowd on a chilly early kickoff, but the announced attendance of 103,969 Saturday was the second-largest of the season and the third of at least 100,000.
Penn State is averaging 102,257 fans through five home games, an increase of 6,037 from last season but more than 4,000 shy of Beaver Stadium’s listed capacity.
Franklin frequently has used a #107Kstrong Twitter hashtag after proclaiming at his introductory news conference in January, “That stadium will be sold out every single game from here on out.”
The lone sellout this season was Oct. 25 against Ohio State.
Jesse James’ 8-yard touchdown reception was 11th of his career, breaking the Penn State record for touchdown catches by a tight end. College Football Hall of Fame inductee Ted Kwalick, a Montour High graduate, had 10 during a career that spanned the mid-1960s.
“It’s pretty cool,” James, a South Allegheny alumnus, said of the record. “A couple of the guys were talking about it. (Fellow tight end Adam Breneman) brought it up a few weeks ago and has been bringing it up the past couple games.”
Penn State remained in the top 10 nationally in three prominent defensive metrics: total defense (third, 273.4 yards per game), scoring defense (ninth, 17.8 points per game) and rushing defense (first, 77.1 yards per game). … With a season-low 42 yards receiving Saturday, DaeSean Hamilton broke the PSU freshman record for receiving yards in a season with 728. Deon Butler had 691 in 2005. Hamilton already held Lions freshmen records for season catches and single-game yardage and catches. … After having nine tackles against Maryland, linebacker Mike Hull leads the Big Ten and is No. 7 nationally at 11 1⁄2 tackles per game (92 total, 52 solo).