Penn State will be without several weapons when it takes on No. 3 Ohio State in Beaver Stadium on Saturday.
The 18th-ranked Nittany Lions will not only be without linebacker Micah Parsons, who opted out for the season, but also running backs Noah Cain and Journey Brown. Cain, a true sophomore, suffered an unspecified injury to his left leg after just three carries in Penn State’s season-opening loss to Indiana.
Penn State coach James Franklin broke the news on Tuesday that Cain — coming off a season of 443 rushing yards and eight touchdowns — would miss the remainder of the season because of the injury:
“Love Noah, so much respect for Noah,” Franklin told reporters. “He really had an unbelievable offseason and worked really hard for this opportunity.”
MORE: Why did Micah Parsons opt out?
Brown, on the other hand, has been ruled out for most — if not all — of the 2020 season since before it began. The redshirt junior, tabbed as one of the top returning backs in the Big Ten, seemed primed for stardom after rushing for 890 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2019. He finished with 1,024 yards from scrimmage and 13 total scores, and was set to be the second-leading returner in yards from last season (behind only Michigan State’s Elijah Collins).
But Penn State on Oct. 19 announced its star running back would miss at least a majority of the season after the team diagnosed him with an unspecified illness over the offseason.
“Journey Brown is being treated for a medical condition discovered during the offseason and will potentially miss the 2020 football season,” the statement read.
The following day, Brown tweeted out a video message thanking fans for their support and saying he “better than ever.” He finished the message by saying he couldn’t wait to get back on the field:
It’s worth noting that Brown briefly considered opting out of the 2020 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic before deciding to come back for another season.
“I had thoughts, but I value (Penn State running backs coach Ja’Juan Seider’s) opinion very much and I feel like he knows what he’s talking about,” Brown told reporters at Penn State’s media days on Oct. 1. “And he got me to this point, just coaching me. So I have full and (utmost) respect for him. So I wasn’t even gonna consider leaving without talking to him and getting his opinion on it, regardless. So if I had thought about it, I would have talked to Coach Seider about it, and we never talked about it, so it was never a thought.
“I never can play college football again, you know?” Brown said. “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.”
It’s uncertain whether Brown, who is eligible to declare for the NFL draft, will come back for one more season after missing out most of 2020.