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With 2020 season looming, Penn State football team gets bad news about standout player

STAFF AND WIRE REPORT
The Associated Press
Penn State running back Journey Brown may miss the entire 2020 football season.

In a potentially devastating loss, Penn State running back Journey Brown could miss the 2020 season because of a “medical condition” that was discovered during the offseason.

That news was first reported late Monday by 247 Sports.

Tuesday at his Zoom news conference, PSU head coach James Franklin offered no new specifics about Brown's condition.

“First of all, we want to focus all of our energy and love and support on Journey through this,” Franklin said. “I’m not going to get into a whole lot, but I didn’t want to just move on to the other guys without talking about how proud and how much we love and support and appreciate Journey and how much he’s grown in our program, and think he has a very, very bright future.”

Brown, a fourth-year junior, had a breakout season last year and emerged from a crowded backfield to become Penn State’s top ballcarrier. He ran for 890 yards, 12 touchdowns and 6.8 yards per carry. In Penn State’s Cotton Bowl victory against Memphis, Brown ran 202 yards, a school record for a bowl game.

Dane Brugler of The Athletic ranked Brown as his No. 1 running back in the 2021 draft class heading into this season.

Franklin said the former Meadville High School standout has been a positive role model for the team's other running backs.

Journey Brown

"Journey’s had a huge impact on those guys," Franklin said. "He’s been great in practice, he’s been great in meeting rooms, and I know he’ll continue to do that."

"... I think about all the things Saquon Barkley did, and his hometown had a parade for him. They should do that in Meadville."

Sophomore Noah Cain (443 yards and eight touchdowns in 2019) is now listed as the starter ahead of Saturday’s opener with Indiana, but the Lions plan to play redshirt freshman Devyn Ford (294 yards and three TDs in 2019) and true freshmen Caziah Holmes and Keyvone Lee, as well. Cain has two 100-yard rushing games last season and also rushed for 92 yards in the Cotton Bowl.

“We got a number of guys there, whether you’re talking about Devyn, or whether you’re talking about, obviously Noah Cain did so many significant things for us last year, so those two guys with tremendous experience, and two guys that we’re really excited about behind those guys with Caziah and Keyvone,” Franklin said.

“(We) feel like we got a really good group there. Obviously, Caziah and Keyvone haven’t done it in a collegiate setting yet, but we do feel Noah has the ability to carry the load and feel like Devyn has a chance to do that as well, and we’ll see how close those two young guys are based on how they prepare this week, but you’d love to get them in the game, we’d love to get them in the game and see how they do in that setting. ... We feel very confident with Noah, and feel very confident with Devyn."

The Nittany Lions, coming off an 11-2 season, already took a significant loss this offseason when All-America linebacker Micah Parsons opted out in August.

Earlier this month, Brown told reporters he gave some passing consideration to skipping this pandemic-delayed season and concentrating on pursuing a pro career.

“You can’t come back – you’ve got four years or five years and you’re done. So I’m gonna ride this one out,” he said.

Now, No. 8 Penn State must prepare for its opener, on the road, without its best running back, and against an Indiana team that Franklin is very impressed with. 

During his Zoom conference, Franklin repeatedly said: "This is the best Indiana football team that we've seen by far."

Saturday's game kicks off at 3:30 p.m. and will be telecast by Fox Sports 1. Penn State beat Indiana last year in Beaver Stadium, 34-27. The Hoosiers finished 8-5 in 2019. PSU owns a 22-1 edge in the rivalry vs. Indiana and Franklin's teams are 6-0 vs. the Hoosiers.

Kickoff time set for PSU-Ohio State game: Penn State's game against Ohio State on Halloween has been set for a prime time 7:30 p.m. kickoff on ABC, the Big Ten announced Monday.

The Lions will take on the No. 6 Buckeyes for their home opener in an empty Beaver Stadium. The Nittany Lions will look to snap a three-game losing streak to the Buckeyes. Penn State has lost those three games by a combined 13 points.

PSU's last win over the the Buckeyes came in 2016, when Penn State won 24-21 in Beaver Stadium.