James Franklin two weeks ago said that Penn State wasn’t an elite team.
A great team, yes, but not elite.
Well, on a Saturday, four days after the “best practice” of the Franklin era, Penn State dropped another game that they had no business losing. It’s a loss that shows that as close as Penn State has looked to being an elite program, they may be just on the borderline of a great team. Now let’s get to the takeaways from the shocking loss.
Wow, that may have been one of the ugliest Penn State games I’ve watched in a long, long time. At least with some of the games earlier this season, you had confidence that they could win because of the offense. Today, that was not the case. In my honest opinion, Ricky Rahne coached today’s offense scared.
The offense against Michigan State was putrid from a start to finish and two of the biggest reasons why are Rahne and the GOAT himself, Trace McSorley. Despite facing one of the worst secondaries that they will face all season, Rahne refused to pass the ball downfield and instead looked toward running plays and short passes. In the select moments in which they did try to pass downfield, McSorley struggled to hit his open receivers. When you have bad play calling and poor quarterback play, it’s bad news and is asking for trouble.
The lone bright side of the offense was the performance of Miles Sanders. The junior tailback had 17 carries for 162-yards and a touchdown. Outside of that however it was the worst offensive performance since the loss to Michigan in 2016.
One consistent theme throughout this season has been self-inflicted wounds. Saturday wasn’t any different for the Nittany Lions, who had a number of penalties on the day, some less timely than others. While you can blame bad refereeing, it’s officially become a trend for the Nittany Lions and one that may cost them another game or two this season. Count the turnover on the first offensive drive and it’s easy to see how the self-inflicted wounds cost Penn State a win on Saturday. That’s not to mention the various dropped interceptions the defense had in the fourth quarter...
I won’t lie, I wrote an entire key takeaway article in case Penn State won and then they went and screwed it all up. Perhaps it’s my fault for thinking the team possibly wouldn’t collapse in a second-straight game, but here we are.
As much good as Franklin’s had in his tenure, the fourth-quarter collapses have become a game of “what if” for the program. Dating back to 2016, this is now five fourth-quarter collapses that have kept Penn State from reaching unbelievable heights. For a program that wants to become elite, the fourth-quarter collapses may be their biggest obstacle. The ability to finish games falls just as much on the coaching staff as it does the players.