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Penn State Football: From Tackling To Field Goals, Nittany Lions Face Manageable To-Do List

by on October 03, 2018 2:10 PM

It's the bye week. Well, the bye week is halfway over, but nevertheless there is no football this weekend for the Nittany Lions, just rest and perhaps a chance to head back home for a quick visit with mom and dad.

But the bulk of Penn State's season lies ahead and in reality the toughest portion of the schedule even with Ohio State in the rearview window. While the Nittany Lions will be learning from that late loss for weeks and months to come, it's fair to say Penn State didn't actually play all that bad for the vast majority of the game.

That doesn't mean the work is done. In fact, here are five things the Nittany Lions will need to work on moving forward in order to make sure that Ohio State loss was just a bump in the road, not a trend.

Defensive depth:

It goes without saying here, but of all the mistakes Penn State may have made on Saturday, there is a lot of truth to James Franklin's note that the starters had played a lot of football that night. Penn State seems to have a found at starting 11 (finally) but now it is a question of who comes in next and how reliable they are. This isn't something that can get fixed over night, but the sooner that depth develops the better off Penn State will be.

Wideout consistency:

When you boil it all down, it's hard to say who Penn State's best pure-hands receiver is. KJ Hamler is more talented with the ball than he is catching it, Juwan Johnson has been inconsistent and everyone else has been hit or miss in both their ability to catch the ball and the number of targets they get per game. So there really isn't an obvious choice for that must-pass situation, or if there is an obvious choice, it isn't a player as sure-handed as DaeSean Hamilton was, something this offense desperately needs. 

Field goals:

Somewhat in his defense Jake Pinegar has two misses to his name in bad weather and long distances. That being said he isn't giving off the same air of confidence that Tyler Davis and Sam Ficken did in their prime. Penn State is probably never going to be a team leaning on field goals to win games, but as this past weekend showed, the difference between making them and missing them, even early in the game, can be massive.

Penn State had ample chances to win following Pinegar's miss, but all the little things loom large after a game like that.


Open-field tackling was a weakness in the early stages of the Franklin era and has shown up again this year. Chances are a lot of this has to do with youth, but it doesn't really matter why it's happening. The offensive player doesn't ask your age as he runs past your outstretched arms. This is another little details moment that will have to be cleaned up as the year goes along. A bit better tackling in the fourth quarter and Penn State might just beat the Buckeyes.

The "what?" moments:

For all the heat Ricky Rahne and James Franklin have taken over the fourth-down call the reality is Rahne has called fairly solid games since his debut as offensive coordinator. The catch, there have been moments in every game, mainly the Tommy Stevens package against Ohio State, that simply make you scratch your head. Every play call has a reasonable football explanation behind it, but the fewer moments that make you say "What?" the better off Penn State will be in the long run.

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