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Penn State’s Dukes wants more playing time

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The Penn State football team is riding a four-game win streak and is fresh off a come-from-behind win over then-ranked No. 24 Northwestern on Saturday.

That’s all good for redshirt junior running back and former Indian River star, Curtis Dukes, the 2008 Times Athlete of the Year.

But he wants more.

Dukes didn’t get a carry in the Northwestern game, the second time in the last three weeks that he didn’t touch the ball.

“I’ve been in this game for too long, and I feel like I deserve more of a shot, to have more playing time and get more exposure,” said the 6-foot-1, 245-pound Dukes.

Dukes has suited up in every game this season for the Nittany Lions (4-2 overall, 2-0 Big Ten). But he has carried the ball in just three of them. In all, he has tallied 26 rushes for 98 yards, and is fifth on the team in attempts.

Last year, Dukes was third on the team in carries (41) and yards (237). His 5.8 yards-per-carry average was best on the team of anyone with more than five rushes.

The two players above Dukes in last year’s pecking order are no longer with the team. Silas Redd transferred to Southern California, and Stephfon Green graduated.

“I feel like I should be getting the ball consistently,” Dukes said. “At the same time, the coaching staff is up there and they know what they want to do. So I’m just basically trying to stay positive about the situation, but at the same time, it’s really hard for me to stay positive about stuff like that.”

After the Penn State program was hit with NCAA sanctions this summer in wake of the child molestation scandal of former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky, Dukes and his teammates were allowed to transfer schools without having to sit out the mandatory one-year waiting period. The Nittany Lions are ineligible to win this season’s Big Ten championship.

Dukes decided to stay at Penn State, saying at the time that he “didn’t want to run from the situation.”

“I didn’t really want to leave my teammates, once you join a team you develop that good relationship with your teammates, and you don’t want to leave them,” Dukes said. “But at the same time, you got to do what you got to do and what’s best for you.”

When asked if he was happy with the decision now, Dukes expressed mixed feelings. He is still assessing his future with the team beyond this year.

Two of Penn State’s top three running backs are in their sophomore season, including leading rusher Zach Zwinak.

“I would be lying if I tell you, ‘Yeah.’ It’s a yes and no,” Dukes said. “I’m just taking it one game at a time. I still don’t know my decision to stay next year or to declare for the NFL draft. I’m really just taking it one day at a time. As the days go on, I’m thinking about what I want to do, what’s my next move.”

Penn State is idle this week, and will play at Iowa on Oct. 20.

NATIONAL RECOGNITION for SHARPE

The awards piled up for Syracuse defensive end Brandon Sharpe this week.

Sharpe, named the Big East Defensive Player of the Week for his effort in last Friday’s 14-13 victory over Pittsburgh, earned three other distinctions throughout the week.

Sharpe was also selected as the CFPA National Defensive Player of the Week, the CFPA National Defensive Lineman of the Week, and the FWAA/Bronko Nagurski National Defensive Player of the Week.

As a result of the latter award, Sharpe will be added to the 2012 Bronko Nagurski Trophy Watch List. Five finalists for the Bronko Nagurski Trophy will be announced by the Football Writers Association of America on Nov. 15. The winner will be revealed on Dec. 3

The 6-foot-2, 245-pound senior registered career highs of four sacks and six tackles behind the line of scrimmage against Pittsburgh, good for second on Syracuse’s all-time single-game list in both categories.

He leads the team with 5.5 sacks and eight tackles for loss this season.

SU INJURY UPDATES

Coach Doug Marrone said Thursday that the Orange is still unsure whether it will have starting safety Shamarko Thomas or wide receiver/kick returner Jeremiah Kobena for Saturday’s Big East game at Rutgers.

Thomas left last Friday’s game against Pittsburgh after a nasty head-on collision with Panthers’ tight end J.P. Holtz. His helmet popped off on the play and he was on the ground for several minutes, but he eventually walked off the field under his own power.

Marrone said that Thomas practiced this week in a limited fashion, and he has yet to be fully cleared. If the senior leader were unable to play, Ritchy Desir would start in his place.

Marrone said that Kobena, who suffered a hand injury in the USC game on Sept. 8, is close to returning, and will be a game-time decision on Saturday.

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