Penn State is entering year 2 of the Mike Yurcich as offensive coordinator era, and the results so far have been turbulent.
Prior to Sean Clifford getting hurt against Iowa, the offense looked okay. Through the first five games, the team was undefeated, and the offense was at least doing its part. The passing game was contributing 286 yards per game, and 2.4 passing TDs per game, while the rushing game was adding in 133 YPG, and another 1.2 rushing TDs per game. Overall, the team was doing okay, with 419 YPG, a combined 3.6 TDs per game, and just 0.6 turnovers per game.
Things changed with Iowa.
The team was up 17-3 right after Clifford went out, and Taquan Roberson came in, and proceeded to lay a big ol’ egg in Kinnick Stadium.
But that could be expected. An inexperienced backup quarterback, thrust into playing meaningful snaps for the first time in his career, on the road at one of the most hostile places to play in the country.
What about afterward?
In the final six games of the season, the passing game actually held its own. They stayed relatively steady at 281 passing YPG, though dipped to 2.0 passing TDs per game (a drop of about 3 PPG). The rushing game, however, fell off a cliff.
84.5 rushing yards per game. 0.5 rushing TDs per game. That’s a total loss of 53.6 offensive yards per game, and 1.1 TDs per game. Against Illinois (overtime), Michigan, and Michigan State, the Lions lost by a combined 7 points. Do you think having that 1.1 TDs per game might have come in handy?
And let’s not forget Ohio State, which the Lions ultimately lost by a score of 33-24. Adding that extra TD back in makes that game 33-31. Could the Lions have driven for a game-winning field goal? Who knows, but a 2-point deficit is much more manageable than a 9-point one.
And lastly, the team went from 0.6 turnovers per game, to 1.2 turnovers per game. Notably, in the first 5 games, all of the turnovers were interceptions. In the final 6 games, the Lions only threw 1 ball to the wrong players, but put the ball on the ground a whopping 5 times.
So, when MMQB asks what does Mike Yurcich need to do in year 2, the answer seems pretty blatant: fix the run game.
Take the load off the passing game, and get back those 50 rushing yards per game. Regain those 0.7 rushing TDs per game. Stop fumbling the dang ball. Make teams respect the run again, and the passing game, I’m sure, can make up that missing 0.4 passing TDs per game.
But, ya know, if he wanted to simply improve the offense across the board, passing included, I don’t think I’d be against that idea.