State's Royster Stays Grounded

Though he is putting up big numbers, Penn State's starting tailback remains focused on the task at hand.

Would it be completely out of line to list Evan Royster as a possible contender for the Heisman Trophy? The Penn State redshirt sophomore tailback clearly thinks so.

“I think it's a ridiculous thought right now, to be honest with you,” Royster said. “It's an unbelievable thought. Just a year ago, I wasn't even playing.”

Royster seemed genuinely surprised when the subject came up Tuesday morning in a conference call with reporters. And the fact that he isn't nearly as well known nationally as Oklahoma's Sam Bradford, Missouri's Chase Daniel and Jeremy Maclin and Texas' Colt McCoy suggests that his skepticism is well founded.

But Royster is coming off a series of impressive performances including a marvelous effort against Purdue in which he finished with 194 all-purpose yards. He's the Big Ten's third-leading rusher with an average of 109.8 yards per game. And he's playing for the sixth-ranked team in the country and is heading into a nationally televised prime time road game against Wisconsin. So it's not as if the speculation is groundless.

Royster is set to go up against the Big Ten's seventh-ranked run defense Saturday night in Camp Randall Stadium. The Badgers are surrendering 123.6 yards per game on the ground after allowing Ohio State's Beanie Wells to rush for 106 yards last Saturday in his return from an ankle injury.

They are also coming off consecutive losses to Michigan and Ohio State. Royster said he expects the Badgers to be angry heading into Saturday's matchup.

“They're definitely going to be hungry for a win and they're going to be ready to play,” he said. “We have to be more ready. That's the only way we're going to win the game.”

If the Nittany Lions prevail in Madison, they will remain in title contention heading into the two other games that many view as defining moments — Michigan at home and Ohio State in Columbus. Can Penn State parlay its 6-0 start into a title shot? Royster hopes so, but the focus for now is on Wisconsin.

“We're just trying to go week to week and win the games we need to win,” he said. “We want to win a Big Ten championship and possibly a national championship, and we can't get too far ahead of ourselves.”

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