Welcome back, friends. Depending upon your method of counting, this mundane post marks the 8th or 9th season of Film Room. This urge to look back spawned not from the growing threat of imminent death at the hands of our grossly incompetent political class, but from the relative fondness we hold for last week’s unfortunate loss in Bloomington.
That’s right, friends - fondness. We actually liked how our Nittany Lions played (with some obvious exceptions). And if hope springs eternal in the human breast, then Film Room’s reason for hope comes from new offensive coordinator Kirk Ciarrocca. Let’s take a quick look.
Kill The Lights
Film Room began, lo those many moons ago, profiling 2011 Penn State at Temple, wherein the PSU offense came to the line, got set, watched Temple overload the offensive right side of the line for a zone blitz, called out their cadence, snapped the ball, and shifted the offensive line in the opposite direction of the overload blitz - because that was what had been called in the huddle 45 seconds earlier. Not ideal.
We’ve watched the switch to BOB’s gameplan offense, and the resurrection of one Matthew McGloin at QB. We watched John Donovan attempt to install Wisconsin’s Power O run game without any scholarship offensive linemen - two years in a row. We saw the birth of YOLO ball from Joe Moorhead. And, we saw...whatever that was from first-time OC Ricky Rahne, may he rest in peace.
But what we hadn’t seen much, until last Saturday, was efficiency. Frequently, PSU approached 3rd down without an improbable amount of yards to gain for conversion. And as a result, the Nittany Lions kept the foosball for 40 minutes whilst tallying nearly 500 yards. Behold below a table chock full of science, showing the past decade of games against Indiana, PSU’s count of 3rd downs attempted, and the average yards to gain for conversion. Note well the 2020 number in comparison to its peers.
Ah, but points, you might note. Points are what wins games. Points come more easily from explosive plays. Ergo, we should explode more often, as we did in 2016.
That’s fine by me. If you can put Saquon Barkley, Trace McSorley, Chris Godwin, Saeed Blacknall, Mike Gesicki, and DaeSean Hamilton back in blue-and-white for this Saturday night’s game with Ohio State, then sure - let’s look uncoordinated and sloppy for much of the game, and hope that one of the aforementioned current-professionals does something amazing to score points.
If, however, we do not have KJ Hamler, Barkley, Godwin, et.al., then being coordinated enough to gain positive yards on most plays is a really good thing to have. And we have it.
Unfortunately our gif-making machine is on the fritz, so we’re relegated to embedding queued YouTubes. Please accept our apologies. But, if you click the play button on the embedded Tube below, you’ll see two hand-clapping good things from PSU’s offense, on its first possession. First, you’ll see new OC Capt Kirk recognize Indiana playing nickel personnel against his base offensive personnel, and Kirk signaling his offense to hurry up, get to the line, and take the next call from the sideline to prevent IU from substituting. Second, you’ll notice the play Kirk dials up is an outside zone run, which RB Devyn Ford cuts back against for a very nice gain on 1st down. Using brain to take easy yards whilst maximizing a player’s strength (in this case, Ford’s vision and one-cut tendencies).
We’ve written about outside zone versus iso/man and power many times. We really like outside zone run schemes - still - despite the tendency of modernist defenses to don skinny jeans, spacebackers, and hybrid defensive ends. It remains a valuable scheme, and we heartily applaud Capt Kirk’s implementation - especially if it keeps CJ Thorpe from rumbling 8 yards down field on an RPO.
It’s also no secret that we like the ol’ “scissors” route. At least, it shouldn’t be a secret, as it’s been our cover photo diagram for the last 8 seasons. But we especially like it when we run it on the opposite side of safety magnet Pat Freiermuth, as Kirk drew it up last Saturday.
Hit The Lights
Last Saturday featured some uncharacteristic mistakes, absurd penalties, and an awful ending. But, there was also a ton of things to like from this new PSU offense. Film Room is excited again.