The offense rolls. Against Syracuse. As always, performance is relative to competition and the actors in The Express could have probably beaten the Orange this weekend.
Well after the "oh, come on!" second play from scrimmage, in which Clark was quickly forced outside and proceeded to cough up the ball, the line looked same old. That one play was the only time Syracuse would get near the quarterback as both Clark and Devlin avoided being sacked for the rest of the afternoon. Each QB was given reps with the first team and the offensive line provided the protection that lead to the two passers throwing for over 130 yard each.
The running backs were given support as well. Royster kept his ypc average up around 8 for the year and was tackled in the backfield just one time all day. Green and Carter were given running lanes as well, as both averaged over 4.5 yards per attempt.
This unit is experienced and good, but keep in mind they haven't really been tested yet.
Clark should be given equal blame for the ridiculous opening fumble, doing that against a real team would have be devastating. Besides that, he had a nice run for a first down and was able to find some open receivers, including the early touchdown to Norwood. He was at times erratic, however, and should have been able to keep his completion percentage over the 50% against this type of competition. Devlin looked impressive, 8 for 13 with two touchdowns, and looked confident when playing with the first team. No interceptions were thrown, and so I'll take the TD/Int ration of 4/0 from those two all day.
It's good to see these guys in a situation where they can finally be taken advantage of again. Clark and Devlin were often times hitting them in stride, allowing yards after the catch. Eight different players caught passes and five TDs were scored through the air when you include Cianciolo's late completion.
Norwood and Butler were open all day. I'm a little concerned by the lack of passes to Williams (2 for 16 yards). I normally would pass this off as the result of the extra attention he gets, but against Syracuse that shouldn't really matter. Besides that, with the damage the other two guys have been doing this season, I don't know that an attempted shutdown of Williams is really a worthwhile strategy. I don't have the game DVR'd to go back and look at the coverage, but, since we are nitpicking at this point, I would like to have seen Williams with more of a presence in the box score.
As a side, I'm encouraged by their dedication to holding onto the ball. I don't remember any blatant drops and there were no fumbles from the receivers.
Royster continues to be as good as they come, running behind a solid offensive line for close to eight ypc and gaining large chucks of yardage of several carries. Not much else to say.
Green looks okay, but either because of the plays being called or because he is often behind the second string line, the explosiveness we talked about all offseason hasn't surfaced. I'm sure once the playbook opens up a little Green will be running in lanes more suited for his style, but so far he's looked good, not great.
It's hard to really grade these guys when the game is essentially over before it begins. You aren't expecting fireworks or trick plays, and frankly Penn State is probably good enough to beat Syracuse with only the most basic of playbooks.
The head scratcher of the day goes to Norwood's sweep and eventual pass downfield. We've seen that several times with former high school quarterback Derrick Williams, so I'm not sure if this was simply a test run with Norwood or a curveball JayPa & Co. wanted included in the game tapes for future Big Ten opponents. Either way, there is no denying the production power of this new Spread HD thing, and with that I have no criticisms of Saturday's play calling worth typing out here.