These last days of the empire creep toward apathy and violence, marked by incredible corruption, jaw dropping incompetence, and the total absence of any virtue. Fortunately, historical conspiracy theories abound, and serve to remind us all that, hey - there’s at least a chance this isn’t the worst moment in our history. Let us never forget that Chicago Mayor Daley manufactured votes for JFK in 1960, or that Lyndon B Johnson had JFK assassinated in Dallas a few years later in order to assume the presidency and launch the Vietnam War. Good times.
Similarly, and less than 36 hours after this blog column hailed PSU’s new 2 TE, ball-control offense as a handy new tool to impede the onslaught of Ohio State’s Justin Fields-led offensive murder squad, we witnessed practically no 2 TE snaps in the first half Saturday night as our Nittany Lions 3-and-outted their way into a lucky-to-be-only a 21-3 - hold on, wait, let’s make it 21-6 - hole from which escape was impossible.
That was the bad part. The good part was that there was also a second half. While we still witnessed practically no 2 TE snaps in the second frame - and why bother when you’re already down multiple scores - we did witness some halftime adjustments which bore good fruit. Let’s take a look at those adjustments, as a happy distraction from the chaos, incompetence, vice, and death which envelopes us.
Kill The Lights
As Kirk Ciarrocco discovered in the first half, Ohio State’s linebackers were hitting the line of scrimmage hard, focused on filling gaps and stuffing Penn State’s run. Penn State opened the second half with hard play action, including a pump fake to RB Devyn Ford, to open space behind OSU’s LBs and in front of their single high safety. And rather than using safety-magnet Pat Freiermuth, Kirk Ciarrocco gave the drag route to true freshman Parker Washington.
Kirk followed that successful play with similar action. Below is a quick RPO / Play Action to #13 KeAndre Lambert-Smith, once again in open space behind OSU’s LBs and in front of the single high safety.
Kirk also appears to have intentionally directed Sean Clifford’s attention toward the wide outs. Below is a quick and easy pitch-and-catch, without any play fakes - a simple 8-yard comeback to Jahan Dotson against a corner playing off man coverage.
Kirk didn’t give up on Pat Freiermuth. Instead, he schemed a different matchup. Below he changes Moose’s alignment and route concept in order to turn leak the Moose into Tuf Borland’s weakside zone (though, this also may have been a missed assignment, as both Browning and Pete Werner shadow Ford out of the backfield).
As early as the fourth quarter (this is sarcasm), we had discovered that Tuf Borland - a fine linebacker and overall good guy by all accounts - may not possess the fleetest feet on the Ohio State roster. Borland’s brain may be too sharp for his feet to make a difference when diagnosing Sean Clifford on a zone read. But out in the flat by his lonesome, with the DBs run off on deep routes, a PSU receiver could make some hay.
Not to confuse Kirk Ciarrocca with Kirk Ferentz, but execution matters too. A fine adjustment from Sean Clifford was to stop overthrowing deep balls. PSU had two receiver wins in the first half, but both were overthrown by 5+ yards. Here’s Jahan Dotson against Shaun Wade.
Why not try it a second time in a row? In fact, to ensure we stop overthrowing deep balls, make it a fade stop.
Having found an unexpected matchup win, Kirk and Clifford kept throwing to Jahan on Wade. On Saturday night, at least, this was a good choice.
Hit The Lights
The first half featured two (apparent) strategies that didn’t go as planned. Pat Freiermuth did not win against Baron Browning (in base) or Josh Proctor (in nickel). And, our spread ‘em out read option, with Clifford keeping, and (ideally) beating Tuf Borland to the edge, was also a huge no go. Borland may not be Ricky Bobby fast, but he definitely isn’t stupid. These facts of life were discovered in a paltry 24 snaps over the first 30 minutes of game play, thanks to three consecutive 3-and-outs, and zero first downs in the entire 2nd quarter.
But, hooray for trying new things. Travel, food, political and economic systems - you need to try new things as part of a classical liberal self education. We discovered we have wide receivers on the roster, including one (now proven) stud, and learned some of our own limits. Too late for last Saturday night, but hopefully just in time for the rest of the season. May our first win come soon.