For a team already facing adversity, losing the new starting running back in Week 1 seems like a huge blow. For Penn State, it's just another obstacle that must be overcome. Former running back Silas Redd (the leading rusher in 2011) transferred to USC this offseason in the wake of NCAA sanctions levied against Penn State.
Penn Live.com posted an article on Thursday night by Bob Flounders of the Harrisburg Patriot-News reporting that backup Derek Day will be the starting running back for Penn State on Saturday. According to the article, head coach Bill O'Brien is not sure that Bill Belton will even be available to suit up for the game.
While it's never good to lose a starter before a game, the reality is that the running game was ineffective even with Belton in the lineup in Week 1. Belton has playmaking ability, but he never quite found the open field against the Bobcats. He rushed for 53 yards of the team's 92 total rushing yards.
From the looks of things last Saturday, this team will rely heavily on quarterback Matt McGloin and the air attack. McGloin threw the ball 48 times against Ohio and racked up 260 yards. If the Lions hope to be successful at Virginia, McGloin will need to be on top of his game. Short, quick passes will be important to the Penn State offense on Saturday.
That being said, Penn State must have some sort of running game. If for nothing else then to pick up some short-yardage first downs and take pressure off of McGloin.
Fifth-year senior, and PA native, Derek Day will get the start when the Nittany Lions take on the Cavaliers in Charlottesville Saturday. Day had 38 yards rushing in relief of Belton in Week 1 against Ohio.
Curtis Dukes, who played on special teams in Week 1, could also see some carries against the Cavaliers. Dukes ran for 237 yards in limited action last season.
Senior fullback Michael Zordich has a knack for catching passes out of the backfield and picking up short yardage when needed.
Losing Belton is a blow to the Nittany Lions heading into their Week 2 game. However, by using a mix of backups and getting creative in the passing game, the Lions could easily overcome this latest obstacle.