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Penn State Football: Nittany Lions Spring Game Was Every Spring Game

by on April 18, 2015 7:58 PM

Spring games are, by their very nature an exercise in giving fans a reason to assume their favorite team will never win another game.

The defense almost always knows what's coming. The offense isn't trying to trick anyone. It's practice.

Yes, we're talking about practice.

So as Penn State took the field on Saturday in front of nearly 70,000 it was a doomed plan to begin with. If Penn State's offense looked fantastic, one might wonder what happened to a defense that is expected to once against be one of the best in the nation.

If the offense looked bad, it was verifiable proof that John Donovan and Christian Hackenberg are overpaid and overrated. The offensive line's potential struggles a sign that 44 sacks for Hackenberg in 2014 might be even more in 2015.

"I think we are way ahead of where we were at this point last year," James Franklin said of the line after the game. "As a group, we still have a situation now where we still have guys trying to learn left tackle, which I think showed up at times today. But as a group, four out of the five in totality of it, we still have a lot of work to do. Like I told you guys last year, it wasn’t going to be like we were going to be able to flip a switch and it’s going to change overnight. I am confident that between now and the start of camp, we can take another step and then continue to grow during camp and be ready to go."

And the afternoon more or less went according to that plan.

Penn State's offense showed signs of improvement. The running game managed to gain yards, Hackenberg made throws that reminded everyone why he's so highly touted. On the flip side the offense rarely did anything fans hadn't seen before. Beyond a quarterback-to-quarterback lateral and pass, it was more of the same. Screens, slants, runs, and the occasional shot down the field.

It wasn't overly inspiring. Then again it wasn't trying to be. No one wins a national title in April.

Perhaps the best summation of every spring game; a Hackenberg interception to open the third quarter followed by a 75-yard drive he engineered that included a seemingly effortless 41-yard lob to Saeed Blacknall. The best and the worst of what the offense had to offer.

Even the defense wasn't safe from unneeded mistakes. Anthony Zettel watched his tackle for a loss turn into a Nick Scott 51-yard touchdown run.

It was two sides of the ball canceling each other out. The defense knew what the offense was going to do and the offense made just enough plays to give people reason to believe that practicing does in fact make a difference.

Fans will leave Saturday undoubtedly with a mixed taste in their mouths. Penn State did not look overly impressive, but it wasn't trying to be.

And the result is perhaps the best summary of where nearly every football team is right now. A team that is better, but maybe not yet good enough. There were a few flashes and a few glaring issues.

So really, it was every spring game ever played.

 

 

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Ben Jones covers Penn State football and basketball for StateCollege.com. He's on Twitter as @Ben_Jones88.
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