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Penn State Football: Deciphering the Offense in 10 Not-So-Easy Steps

by on September 07, 2014 11:25 AM

Kitchen, meet Sink:

Just how much and why did offensive coordinator John Donovan have to throw out against Akron in hopes of getting something – a run for over three yards, for instance – to consistently stick?

Let us count the ways, remembering of course that in the end Penn State did win its home opener, 21-3, in Beaver Stadium on Saturday to up its record to 2-0.

1. Running back Bill Belton once overthrew quarterback Christian Hackenberg (photo at right, by StateCollege.com's Paul Burdick).

2. Third-string running back Akeel Lynch ran the Wildcat. Twice.

3. Three miscues stopped three Nittany Lion drives: two picks thrown by Hackenberg, both in the red zone, and center Angelo Mangiro snapped the ball too soon…and hit the leg of wide receiver DaeSean Hamilton, going in motion. 

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4. Hackenberg didn’t over- or under-throw Belton four times out of his six attempts. Of Belton’s four grabs, one was a 22-yard TD on a sideline wheel route that began with a backfield fake.

5. Penn State had five different ball-carriers, including Hamilton, who got a very lucky one-yard on a reverse that required him to reverse the field twice.

6. Six incompletions from Hackenberg intended for his two main tight ends, Jesse James and Kyle Carter, were too many. The PSU QB did complete two to James and made them count -- both went for touchdowns, of 13 and 44 yards. Carter’s only reception (for 23 yards) came on the fourth-last play of the game.

7. Penn State had seven different receivers. (Woulda been eight if BB hadn’t thrown that bullet over Hack’s head.)

8. Hackenberg, despite appearing rocky at times, was still the rock of the Penn State offense for the first three quarters – when the Lions ran 18 times and passed 34. Hackenberg was 22 of 36 for 319 yards – 8.8 yards per pass attempt. (In two games in 2014, he has 773 passing yards, a PSU record for two consecutive games.)

9. The Nittany Lions ran the ball 25 times and nine (36%) were for zero or negative yardage. Eighteen (50%) were for three yards or less. Here are all 25, so you can see for yourself: -6, -3, -3, -2, -1, -1, 0, 0, 0, 1, 1, 1, 1, 2, 2, 2, 3, 3, 5, 5, 5, 6, 6, 6, 8, 9, 10, 13, 18, and 23. (The 23-yarder was by Belton, just three plays before the game ended.)

10. Donovan and his boss, James Franklin, have 10 more games to figure this whole thing out – meaning mostly the running game, so Hackenberg doesn’t have the entire Nittany Nation on his shoulders.

Meanwhile, Belton – who caught four passes, threw one pass and ran nine times against Akron – appreciates the variety. 

“It’s fun. It allows us to do a lot of different stuff,” said Belton after the game. “It’s exciting. You never know what you’re going to get. We look forward to getting the game plan each week… We’ll do whatever Coach Donovan wants to draw up each week in the game plan.”

 



Mike Poorman has covered Penn State football since 1979, and for StateCollege.com since the 2009 season. His column appears on Mondays and Fridays. Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/PSUPoorman. His views and opinions do not necessarily reflect those of Penn State University.
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