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Alamo Bowl Recap - The Offense

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Sorry for the lack of posting lately. I've been doing the family thing as I'm sure many of you have as well. Though I didn't get a chance to drop in on the open thread, I did watch the game.  Let's run through the offense and evaluate their performance.

Quarterbacks

Anthony Morelli's Penn State career has come and gone without ever seeing his breakout game. The Alamo Bowl was more of what we've come to expect from him. He had some amazing throws like the 30 yard fade pass to Deon Butler on fourth and three for Penn State's first touchdown. Or the 21 yard sideline pass to Derrick Williams on third and six on Penn State final scoring drive. And of course there were some totally boneheaded throws. Like the toss that hit the defensive lineman in the numbers from five yards away. Or the interceptions where he held the ball, and held the ball, ate a sandwich, held the ball some more, and then heaved it sixty yards into double coverage for no reason. There were countless times the announcers were pointing out guys running free 15 yards down field where Morelli didn't even look at them. When the day was over his stat line read 15-of-31 for 143 yards, 1 TD, and 1 INT. This against a pretty terrible passing defense.

But the story of the night was backup quarterback Daryll Clark who saw considerable playing time. Many Penn State fans are excited for next year after seeing a glimpse of the spread option being run by Clark, but not so fast my friend. Clark didn't throw a single pass. In fact I don't think he even handed off. Every time I saw him in the game he faked a handoff and either ran behind the left or right guard. It worked against Texas A&M again and again to the tune of 50 yards and a touchdown on six carries. But then the Aggies didn't practice for it and weren't prepared for it, though they did start to adjust to it at the end of the game. Big Ten teams will catch on very quickly next year if that's all Clark has to offer. But with our offensive line coming together and Royster providing a second option in the backfield maybe that's all we need.

Just tuck the ball away, kid.

Running Backs

Can someone tell me why Rodney Kinlaw only got 39 carries last year? He looked good all this year and he was amazing in the Alamo Bowl. He rushed for 143 yard and a touchdown on 21 carries while looking absolutely explosive. There was one play where it appeared like he was stopped in the backfield, but then the hole opened up and he went from standing still to top speed in about two steps to slip through the hole and gain over ten yards. It's too bad he couldn't say healthy during the early part of his career. He looks like he could have been a special player. Hopefully he'll do well in the post season senior bowls and get an invite to the NFL combine.

But out with the old and in with the new. Freshman Evan Royster continues to impress. He didn't get into the game until the third quarter due to Kinlaw playing so well. But on his third carry of the night he blasted through the hole like he was shot out of a cannon and outran the defense 38 yards for the winning touchdown. If he can stay healthy his combination of power and speed is going to take the Big Ten by storm next year.

Receivers

I thought all the receivers did a great job. They were getting open all night even if Morelli wasn't finding them. There were a few drops here and there, but nothing unforgivable.

Butler's touchdown catch was vintage Deon. Can anyone recall a Penn State wide receiver that was better at laying out for a catch than Butler? What makes his four catch 59 yard performance even more impressive is that Paterno said he was puking his guts out before the game due to illness. I've said it before and I'll say it again. Deon Butler needs to be a team captain next year. He's awesome.

Butler for Captain '08

I was surprised to see Chris Bell getting a lot of playing time early in the game. They threw to him a few times. He didn't catch a pass, but he did draw a pass interference call. I thought I saw a few instances where he was dogging it on some running plays. I don't recall seeing him in the second half.

Derrick Williams lined up all over the place all night with success. I think this is a great strategy, but can someone please drop JayPa a note to throw it at him on a crossing pattern? Why do we only throw to him on fly patterns, bubble screens, and outs? He caught five balls for 39 yards and had three rushes for 11 yards Saturday night.

At the tail end of last year Andrew Quarless was Morelli's favorite target. On Saturday he was running wide open all over the place and Morelli wasn't even looking at him. What gives?

And what was up with Jordan Norwood? The few times they threw to him he dropped the ball. He didn't have a catch all night. Think maybe his dad leaving is affecting him?

Offensive Line

Game ball goes to the O-Line. They were amazing in blowing the Aggies off the line all night. There were opening gaping holes for Kinlaw and Royster. They also gave Morelli all day to throw, a luxury he's always willing to take advantage of.

True Freshman Stephen Wisniewski saw a lot of playing time and looked like a man among boys. Just the fact this kid played in his freshman year says a lot. Not many offensive lineman are mature enough to play right away. He's going to be a special player as he gets more experience.

The best part of this offensive line is that everyone returns next year except for John Shaw who didn't play much anyway. No matter who wins the quarterback job we'll be ok because this line combined with Royster's running will be plenty of offense as long as Clark or Devlin are at least average.

Offensive Coaching

At times the playcalling was great. At times is was like whah? Penn State had a great drive going just before the half. They started at their own 14 and drove down the field and had 1st and goal at the seven. Rodney Kinlaw was gaining yards in double digit chunks in the second quarter. Daryll Clark was gaining eleven yards at a time and already had a touchdown by that time. So what do we do? Let's start passing the ball. Incomplete to Jordan Norwood, though it should have been reviewed because it sure looked like a completion to me. They dump the ball off to Kinlaw on second down and he loses a yard. Then on third down Morelli tries to force a ball to Quarless in heavy coverage. Three passing plays. Who calls the passing plays again? Why weren't we running the ball?

I was pleased that they weren't too conservative. They ran a play on fourth down twice and converted both of them. Hopefully this staff has learned that this is the way the game is played today. Statistics have proven it makes no sense to punt on fourth down if you have less than three yards to go on the opponent's side of the field.

Perhaps the best move the offensive coaching staff did was scripting plays for Clark. A&M wasn't ready for it and they worked to perfection. Though I'm not crazy about leaving Morelli in there at wideout, I can see some benefit to it. A&M had to leave a man out there to defend him to keep State honest, so in a way it's like Morelli blocked that guy (and he did throw a really nice block on one play), but the same effect could have been done with Jordan Norwood or even Brendan Perretta out there. Why not give the defense something else to think about? Nobody is going to think Morelli is a serious threat to go deep and catch a ball. Yeah ok, you had no intention of actually throwing the ball, but the defense doesn't know that. Telegraph the run often enough and pretty soon the defense is stacking nine guys in the box. Why do that to yourself?

So to summarize, I think the offensive coaching was ok. Sometimes they don't give the opponent enough credit thinking they are stupid. Other times they give them too much credit and outthink themselves when they should just line up and stick with what's working.

Defensive review to follow.