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Inside Penn State's Offensive Inconsistency - Take 2

On Friday, we took a look at Penn State's offensive rankings since 2004 and found that it had finished 72nd or worse in the nation 4 times, including this year's statistics.  Upon review, I wrote this:

"This is about putting your players in position to be successful, which is something Penn State does once every several years.  In 2002, 2005, and 2008, the offense was overhauled and the result was obvious.  In 2002, we saw Zack Mills slinging the ball out of the shotgun to Bryant Johnson in the first half against #7 Nebraska. In 2005, we saw the beta version of 2008's aptly named Spread HD.  In 2008, Daryll Clark was a legitimate threat to run and pass.  Each time, Penn State's offense was dramatically different - it was diverse, unpredictable, and took advantage of its talented skill players by putting them in a position to be successful.

"Where is that this year?  Where was it last year?

"Where are the plays that get Silas Redd out on the edge?  Where are the counters, cutbacks, and pitches?  Where are the drag routes across the middle of the field to utilize the blinding speed of Devon Smith?  Where is the play calling that doesn't require Penn State to run on second down?  Where is the moment when Penn State stops screwing around with the rhythm and timing of its offense and plays one quarterback consistently?"

In response, Penn State went out on Saturday against the Iowa Hawkeyes and scored 13 points.


Even so, I'm not here to critique Saturday's offensive performance.  In fact, I'm coming in praise of it.  Life's funny, isn't it?

This isn't merely about the satisfaction of finally getting a sound win against an Iowa team that has been a thorn in our side for the past decade.  In fact, there's no question that this team has a lot of work to do to be better on offense.  All that said, despite the Saturday's scoring (or lack thereof), we saw real progress.  What we actually saw were the coaches putting their players in a position to be successful.

Each of those criticisms pointed out on Friday were addressed.  Yes, we ran Silas Redd into the teeth of the defense and he gained yards running inside at least in part because our offensive live was physically superior.  But we also elected to run plays where he and Curtis "Diesel" Dukes[1] could break around the tackle.  Several times we ran misdirection plays that we ran during the Spread HD era, with Smith looping around on an end-around fake while Redd broke in the other direction with the ball. Speaking of Smith, McGloin hit him on a drag route underneath that gave the Nittany Lions a 21-yard gain.  Smith ran a similar route during the first drive on the 3rd down in the red zone where Bolden threw the ball at Justin Brown's feet.

Finally, the staff appears to have settled on a quarterback.  After a nearly disastrous first drive that somehow managed to turn into 3 points, Rob Bolden gave way to Matt McGloin.  Bolden took one more series in the second half, but McGloin is clearly the guy that the staff, the fans, Chris Spielman, Urban Meyer, and Dave Pasch all trust.  He made two ill-advised throws on the day[2], but also checked down when appropriate to both Redd and Suhey, and showed surprising arm strength on two really nice intermediate outs. 

Still, the Lions only scored 13 points.  There is plenty of improvement to be had.  If Saturday was any indication, the X's and O's were just fine.  It's the Jimmy's and the Joe's turn to make plays.

Of course, we may be getting a clearer offensive identity sooner rather than later . . . [3]

Urban Meyer's Freudian Slip (via Furrrshurrr)

[1] "As in diesel fuel - that which makes a mack.truck.go."

[2] Seems to be the average, no?

[3] They see me trollin' . . .