Penn State logo

STATE COLLEGE – As a team-wide flu-like illness cloaked Penn State last week, roster management for the Nittany Lions’ contest against Rutgers remained fluid even after kickoff.

With 21 players ultimately unavailable to play against the Scarlet Knights, a multitude of young and veteran Nittany Lions either logged the first playing time of their collegiate careers or received an increased workload.

“We had 63 guys play in the game on offense or defense, not counting special teams,” Penn State coach James Franklin said. “So that was a real positive.”

Perhaps the most anticipated debut was that of freshman offensive lineman Landon Tengwall, who entered the game at left tackle in the first quarter. Nittany Lions’ starter Caeden Wallace left the game early with the illness.

Tengwall impressed in his debut, as he and Penn State’s offensive line paved the path for 149 yards for Nittany Lions rushers. The contest marked the second consecutive in which Penn State rushed for more than 100 yards.

“I thought Landon came in as a freshman and played really well,” Franklin said. “We were very, very pleased and very impressed with him. “There were a lot of moving parts that magnified it against a team that I think plays good defense and is physical and tough. We were very pleased with Landon.”

Penn State’s offensive line was one of the most impacted position groups.

Fellow offensive linemen Jimmy Christ (redshirt freshman) and Blake Zalar (redshirt sophomore) saw the collegiate playing field for the first time of their Penn State careers, and while offensive linemen Bryce Effner (redshirt junior) and Anthony Whigan (redshirt senior) tallied their first collegiate starts.

“Effner, a little bit like Whigan, he's a veteran guy who has waited his turn and has accepted his role, Franklin said. “But the fact that he played three positions in the game, I think is really impressive. I think those things are exciting for all three of those guys for their future and for our future.”

Redshirt freshman wide receiver Malick Meiga’s stock through the first 10 weeks trended upward as his role among the position group continued to expand. Meiga recorded the first touchdown on his collegiate career as he and freshman quarterback Christian Veilleux connected for a 67-yard score.

“It was great to have this moment with Christian,” Meiga said. “We’ve been training together since we were in Canada. We’ve been talking about days like these. It was great teamwork. Everybody was doing their job, and it just happened that it was my time to get an opportunity to shine.”

Saturday served as an audition of sorts for 2022 and beyond. Franklin this week said the illness that wiped out the team has a period of three days, so it’s likely that the Nittany Lions will close out the regular season with close to a more normal game day roster when they play Michigan State this weekend.

“I thought obviously the story of the game is the guys that played through injury and played through sickness,” Franklin said. “Even if they weren't able to play the whole game, guys really tried to put the team first, sacrifice, and do what they had to do to give us the best chance to win.”

Trending Video

Recommended for you