A curious thing happened in the third quarter of Penn State’s 52-0 week one rout of the Akron Zips. With the Nittany Lions coasting along after building a 35-0 first half lead, several starters remained in the game for a couple final series before checking out for the day. Before this would occur, backup quarterback Tommy Stevens trotted out on the field to share a backfield with starter Trace McSorley.
Penn State then ran a few plays out of this dual-quarterback lineup, much to the chagrin of Rod Gilmore. The ABC analyst couldn’t understand why Penn State would be revealing this with the game well in hand against an outmatched non-conference opponent.
Conventional wisdom would agree with Gilmore. Unique packages and trick plays typically stay hidden in an offensive coordinator’s bag of tricks, waiting for the perfect time when the offense desperately needs to make something happen. But as we’ve learned in the past year, Joe Moorhead is anything but conventional.
Moorhead is always several steps ahead of the announcers in the booth and the spectators in the stands. Heck, he’s basically always several steps of ahead of defensive coordinators who are making a fortune to stop opposing offenses. His philosophy, in part, is to keep defenses on their toes so they are unsure of what to expect next, and he has an incredibly high football IQ to do this on a weekly basis.
Moorhead knew exactly what he was doing in the second half against the Zips. He wasn’t wasting an opportunity by revealing something too soon. He was revealing it to put all of his cards on the table as a way of saying, “Go ahead and try to stop us.”
Penn State should mail out the film tape along with an extra large bottle of Excederin for defensive coordinators. By laying everything out, Moorhead is forcing opponents to prepare to try to defend the many ways the Nittany Lions offense can hurt them. Moorhead understands this isn’t an offense that will need to depend on trick plays to get things moving. Instead, his best bet is to lay it all on the line, make defenses pick their poison, and then pull the rug out from underneath them once they place too much focus on stopping one aspect of the offense.
Moorhead has not one, but two quarterbacks who can do damage with their arms or legs. He has the most dynamic playmaker in the nation in Saquon Barkley. He also has a match-up nightmare in tight end Mike Gesicki, as well as a slew of tall, speedy, receivers, and in the trenches, a young and talented offensive line who are developing into Penn State’s best line in close to a decade.
Moorhead isn’t just making Penn State’s offense fun, he’s quickly transformed them into one of the most complete and dangerous units in all of college football.
Enjoy the ride, and party like it’s 1994.