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Post Notre Dame - Grading the Offense

Let's take a look at how the offense did against Notre Dame.


It's disappointing to say, but Anthony Morelli took a step backward in this game. He was just terrible in the first half. It started right out of the gate with his interception on a poorly underthrown ball to Derrick Williams. Then later he took a sack he shouldn't have. Then near the end of the half with time winding down he scrambled and tried to dive for a first down instead of running out of bounds to stop the clock. Not only did he land about three yards short of the mark, he fumbled the ball away giving the Irish a prime opportunity to score some points before the half and go to the locker room on a high note.

Fortunately he settled down during the break and played smarter in the second half. He didn't light up the scoreboard, but he did hit Chris Bell on an impressive 51 yard post pattern. His final stat line was 12-of-22 for 131 yards and 1 TD. The INT and fumble hurt the offense and made the halftime score closer than it should have been.

Grade: 6 out of 10

Running Backs

I wasn't very impressed with the running game in the first half. Austin Scott seemed to slip back into his old pattern of dancing in the hole instead of exploding through it. On Penn State's second possession of the game Scott fumbled the ball away setting the Irish up in a position to go up by two scores.

Rodney Kinlaw came in and gave a little spark off the bench, but overall the running game wasn't getting the job done in the first half. Though the coaches weren't really putting them in a position to succeed as I'll explain later.

The second half it became apparent the Notre Dame defense was getting tired. The coaches changed up the gameplan of running up the middle and started running off tackle with success. In the fourth quarter Penn State managed a drive that consumed five minutes and 62 yards on 10 consecutive running plays between Austin Scott and Matt Hahn. Scott would finish the day with 2 TD and 118 yards on 28 carries. He had an excellent 50 yard run called back on a holding penalty. Overall a good day, but the fumble hurt and he was a little slow to get it going.

Grade: 7 out of 10


Once again nobody had a dominating performance, but seven guys got involved in catching the ball. I think after Morelli's interception the coaches adjusted the plan and went conservative. Everyone did a good job of getting open and catching the ball when it was thrown to them. Jordan Norwood's touchdown was an excellent read. When he saw his man blitz he immediately turned around to look for the ball and Morelli saw him. He was basically uncovered which is why that play looked so easy.

But the catch of the day went to Chris Bell on his 51 yard catch and run. When was the last time we had yards after the catch like that? Can we see more please?

Also, where were the tight ends?

Grade: 7 out of 10

Offensive Line

They struggled early in the game. Austin Scott couldn't get any room to run, but they did a decent job of protecting the quarterback by only giving up two sacks. For the most part Morelli had plenty of time to throw or check down.

Like last week they got things going in the second half and opened some holes. They played a relatively clean game with one offsides and one holding call. The holding penalty was particularly bad because it negated a 50 yard Austin Scott run. Overall a good game, but I wish these guys could dominate a game and not wait until the second half to get things going.

Grade: 6 out of 10

Offensive Coaching

Last week I watched Georgia Tech run up and down the field at will against the Irish defense. They did it running outside the tackles. Apparently Penn State didn't watch the game film from that game or they chose to ignore it because we came out determined to run between the guards. Play after play after play we stuffed it up the middle for little or no gain. But that didn't stop us from trying it again. The vein was popping out of my forehead in the third quarter. After A.J. Wallace's long kick return we ran Austin Scott up the middle three plays in a row and ended up settling for a field goal. All of the momentum from the Wallace return was killed.

The coaches seemed to finally wise up in the fourth quarter. They began pitching the ball outside to Scott and what do you know? He gained 50 yards rushing in the fourth quarter alone.

Now, you could say that all that running up the middle payed off in the second half when the Irish defense got gassed and that would be a valid point. But why use the first three quarters to just set up one drive in the fourth? How many points could we have scored if we weren't killing drives by being so stubborn about establishing the inside running game?

I thought the play calling in the passing game was ok. Unlike the steady diet of bubble screens and five yard out patterns we saw last year they did a good job of mixing up different patterns and spreading the ball around to different recievers.

The double trickeration reverse was a disaster. The post to Bell and screen to Hahn were great calls. Once again I was extremely impressed with the red zone offense. On the day Penn State went 4-for-4 with three touchdowns.

Grade: 7 out of 10