Much Ado About Nothing?

Joe Paterno and his players are downplaying Evan Royster's early season lack of production. "We're all confident in Evan," center Doug Klopacz said. "The coaches are confident."

The message from the Penn State football machinery Tuesday regarding senior running back Evan Royster can be summed up as follows: Nothing to see here. … Everyone just move along.

Royster, continuing a laborious pursuit of Curt Warner's career rushing record, was benched for much of the second half of last Saturday's 24-0 victory over Kent State, while Stephfon Green and Silas Redd were given most of the work.

Coach Joe Paterno said afterward that nothing should be read into it, that he was merely trying to get Royster's backups up to speed, once the game was in hand. And the coach reiterated that during his conference call Tuesday afternoon.

“I don't have any gripes with (Royster),” he said at one point.

Royster, who on Saturday became the sixth player in school history to surpass 3,000 yards for his career, now has 3,028, 370 fewer than Warner. But Royster has gained just 110 of those in the first three games of this season, on 31 carries (3.5 per rush).

Against Kent State he ran 11 times for 38 yards. Green had 59 yards on 11 rushes, Redd 24 on six.

But again, Paterno said Royster's not in the coach's doghouse, or anything like that. He's still working hard in practice, still an integral part of the team.

And nobody else seems worried. Or nobody's about to admit it, anyway.

“I wouldn't say we're not in sync (with Royster),” center Doug Klopacz said during a conference call with reporters. “We're all confident in Evan. The coaches are confident. The players are confident. I really don't think there's a problem.”

It's worth noting that Royster also had two rather ordinary games to start last season before generating 134 yards on 19 carries in a 31-6 defeat of the Owls in Week Three, the first of his six 100-yard games en route to a 1,169-yard season.

The year before he ran nine times for 73 yards in a 45-3 victory over the Owls.

“Hopefully he has another breakout game against Temple,” said Klopacz, who said Royster was “fine at practice” Monday, and “doing what he had to do.”

Paterno, true to form, said the Owls' run defense looks good on film.

“Nobody's really taken the ball and shoved it down Temple's throats,” he said.

The Owls, off to a 3-0 start, have allowed 140.7 yards per game on the ground (3.9 per rush), but 207 per game through the air. Opponents are completing 63.5 percent of their passes.

“I feel like they're a very disciplined defense,” Klopacz said. “They all know what they have to do, and they stay disciplined with their assignments. And they're fast. It's a fast defense. It's going to be a good challenge for us.”

Klopacz, like Paterno, said PSU's reshuffled offensive line is still coming around. There were multiple position changes during spring practice, with one of the biggest being Klopacz's addition to the starting lineup while Stefen Wisniewski shifted from center, where he was an All-Big Ten selection last year, back to right guard, the position he had played earlier in his career.

The early returns are promising. The line has not allowed a sack to date, and the runners are averaging 4.2 yards per carry.

Still, Klopacz said, “We have a ways to go.”

Klopacz, a fifth-year senior, redshirted in 2006, served as a backup in '07 and rehabbed much of '08, after tearing his right ACL in an early season practice. Last year he rode the bench again.

But he was told very early in spring ball that he would be a starter, and he hasn't been dislodged since.

“It's great,” he said. “Who wouldn't want to be doing this? It's great to finally be in the mix. … The knee set me back a little bit. It happened at a bad time. That's life. Things happen. It's been a while, but it's definitely been worth the wait.”

Now everybody's waiting on Royster. Waiting to see where he goes from here.

Not that anybody's worried, though. Not a bit.

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