Penn State’s Miles Sanders teams with revamped Lions’ O-line to resuscitate run game and vanquish Wisconsin

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STATE COLLEGE — Jonathan Taylor looked the part of an All-Big Ten running back Saturday afternoon at Beaver Stadium. That much was expected from the Wisconsin sophomore who entered the game against Penn State with a conference-best 1,363 yards.

Miles Sanders wasn’t far behind him. Taylor got more yards (185) but Sanders was more effective as the game progressed.

And the play of Sanders, Penn State’s junior tailback, combined with the hard work of the Lions’ new-look offensive line was the biggest difference between this Saturday and the last one in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Sanders ran for 159 yards and a touchdown on 23 carries as Penn State (7-3, 4-3) crawled out of an early 7-0 hole to control Wisconsin for the final three quarters in a 22-10 victory before an announced crowd of 105,396.

The physical effort from Penn State on both sides of the ball was a necessary statement after Michigan drubbed the Lions 42-7 a week earlier, running the ball effectively and suffocating James Franklin’s offense.

Michigan’s romp, and Penn State’s lack of response during the final 30 minutes, did not sit well with the Penn State offensive line.

“I think just overall, mentality was the biggest thing this week,’’ said Penn State center Michal Menet, the Exeter Twp. star who is in his first year as a starter.

“We had it in our minds since Sunday last week that we were going to be the group that kinda led the way. We had the mentality all week that we were going to run the ball and just be dominant up front.’’

Sanders surpassed 1,000 yards for the season against Wisconsin (6-4, 4-3) and he sits at 1,007 with two regular-season games remaining. The 100-yard game was his fourth this year — Sanders ran for a career-high 200 yards against Illinois in September — and chances are good he will be taking his linemen out for some food this week. He said he first did it after running for 118 yards in PSU’s 51-6 win at Pittsburgh in Week 2.

“I’m going to definitely try and take them out this week,’’ said Sanders, who scored on a 1-yard run midway through the second quarter to extend PSU’s lead to 16-7.

“I think they deserve it.’’

Sanders also produced one of the game’s biggest plays a couple of minutes before his TD with Penn State facing a third-and-seven situation from the Wisconsin 40. The Lions were leading 10-7, having answered a 71-yard touchdown run by Jonathan Taylor with Trace McSorley’s 14-yard scoring toss to wideout DeAndre Thompkins and a 49-yard field-goal by true freshman Jake Pinegar.

Still, Penn State had yet to start separating from the Badgers. And with the Lions needing seven yards on the third-down play, Sanders got loose down the sideline for a 23-yard run before scoring three plays later.

“We felt like we had some opportunities today in the running game based on our plan,’’ Franklin said.

“Some of the opportunities that we felt like presented itself based on their defensive scheme and what we try to do offensively. We were able to take advantage of that. Obviously, Miles rushing for basically 160 yards and a touchdown was great, gave our offensive line some confidence.’’

Lions offensive line coach Matt Limegrover made a couple of changes to his group heading into Saturday’s game.

Left tackle Ryan Bates moved to right tackle and Will Fries, who had been sharing time at right tackle with Chasz Wright, was slotted at left tackle.

A week after Michigan held Sanders to 14 yards on seven carries, Penn State finished with 183 rushing yards and held a significant time of possession edge against Wisconsin: 33:59 to 26:01.

“I’m so happy for him,’’ Menet said of Sanders.

“Obviously, he’s done a ton of stuff by himself but the fact that we were able to get a running back 1,000 yards feels awesome.’’

Source : https://www.pennlive.com/pennstatefootball/2018/11/penn-states-miles-sanders-teams-with-revamped-lions-o-line-to-resuscitate-run-game-and-vanquish-wisconsin.html