UNIVERSITY PARK -- Evan Royster knew about all the criticism and flat out admitted, "It kind of pissed me off."
So he went out Saturday afternoon ready to shut everybody up.
"It feels good to show that I can still play the game," Royster said after gaining a career-high 187 yards on 26 carries. "I think a lot of people were thinking I couldn't anymore."
Royster's lack of production the first three weeks had been the season's biggest story line, with the senior gaining only 110 yards on 31 carries. His weight has been an issue since he showed up for the summer about 13 pounds heavier at 225, and his slow start provided fodder for criticism about him looking slower and lethargic.
"I was taken back a little bit the first time I heard my mom and my brother say something about [the criticism]," Royster said. "It's not like it's completely surprising, but it's something you've got to kind of expect."
Royster, who Saturday spoke to the media for the first time since the postgame against Youngstown State three weeks ago, said he was most upset with how the criticism was affecting his family and others close to him.
"Having my family be so upset about it, it kind of pissed me off," he said.
The external criticism didn't lead Royster to make any changes, but hearing constructive criticism from within the team did.
"I still felt good, but it's a matter of what other people see," he said. "Because sometimes you look at yourself, you don't notice these things."
Linebackers coach Ron Vanderlinden did notice.
"I even had Coach Vanderlinden come up to me and say, 'You look like you don't have that thing, like that extra burst,'" Royster said. "And that's what I need. That's what people need to tell me because I won't see that myself. That was probably the biggest moment for me like deciding that, OK, I'm going to cut my weight down.
"I trust what the coaches say," he added, "and if they wanted me to lose weight, I was willing to do it. I'm down to like, I think I was 212 on Tuesday or Thursday. If that's what they want me at, then that's what I'm going to play at."
Royster said over the summer that he wanted to bulk up to help prepare his body for the NFL. He decided to return for his senior year instead of entering the NFL draft, and with 3,215 career yards, he's now just 184 shy of the school record.
"This is the first time I've ever been more than 215 pounds in my life," Royster said. "I was going to try to get used to it, but there's not a whole lot of time in the season. This is my last year here, so I kind of need to play at a weight that I'm already comfortable with."
Joe Paterno, who has been hesitant to criticize his running back, pulled Royster aside earlier in the week for a pep talk.
"Joe just said to me, 'You've got to get those extra yards a couple times,'" Royster said. "And I came out thinking that he's right, I should be getting extra yards."
"I was seeing the commentary about him somewhere else, and I think people got the idea that I thought he wasn't doing very well," JoePa said. "I talked to him earlier in the week and said, 'Forget about what everyone is talking about. Just play your game and we'll see what happens.'"
Royster may have been struggling, but many of his teammates have spoken about how they were not worried about his production.
"The fans have certain expectations, but I don't think it's fair to really criticize everyone," offensive tackle Chima Okoli said. "Everybody works really hard. I'm never going to be one to say, 'Aw, c'mon baby, you should be doing better.' I know how hard he works and how much tape he watched. I know his preparation process is really out of this world. I knew it was only a matter of time before it's gonna be a big day for him."
Saturday was that day as Royster opened the game with a 50-yard run on PSU's first play from scrimmage. He went off right tackle and found a big hole, then stiff-armed his way to the big gain.
"It was a play that we thought was going to be a good play for us," he said. "We probably ran it about 10 or 15 times today."
It was important in many ways for Royster to put his struggles behind him, something he was candid about after the game.
"I think it's [big] for everyone -- it's for me, it's for my family, it's for my friends, for the team," he said. "That's the important thing, just any way I can help my team and get out here and win games."