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Penn State Football: Nittany Lions Replaying Mistakes In Practice To Open Up Shot At Redemption

by on March 30, 2015 2:00 PM

It's one thing to practice a two-minute drill.

It's another to practice redemption.

And that's what Penn State is trying to do this spring during practice. Instead of strictly marching down the field in under two minutes, the Nittany Lions are replaying the bad moments from last season. Nearly all of which came in the final minutes of the game.

So that's where the "four-minute offense" comes in. The recreation of late-game situations that Penn State did not execute well, and as a result lost the game. Instead of fighting against the clock, Penn State is fighting against bad memories.

Ultimately the key to any late game situation is the same with or without the lead. Control the clock, move the ball and manage your timeouts. 

That didn't happen against Illinois in a 16-14 loss despite leading 14-13 with 3:29 to go. Or in a 20-19 defeat to Maryland even though the Nittany Lions had the ball with 3:22 to go and a 19-17 lead. Sure wins turned last second losses. In a sanctioned Penn State universe that might not be a season-ending mistake, but down the road, two losses are the difference between a lot of good and a lot of disappointment.

"We took the 'Illinois situation', exact yard-line, situation, timeouts, and went through it again," James Franklin said after practice this weekend. "We've gone back and took all these situations from the games last year and we're going to play them out and we're going to learn from some of the mistakes we did last year. And the offense was able to line up in the four-minute offense and play pretty good and be able to win both of those situations in terms of eating up the clock. That's because your O-line and tight ends are blocking better as well as the running backs running hard.''

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The whole point, getting the most out of every practice. You can understand a situation better when you're prepared for it. You can handle it differently when you've experienced it and have gone through the motions time and time again. Kentucky basketball has ridden that mentality through close games all season despite an undefeated record. "Been there, done that" isn't something to be overlooked.

"So if I get up there and I say, 'Four-minute situation, three minutes and 10 seconds left, two timeouts', and I'm just coming up with something.

"But if I can tell them, 'This is the situation. This is exactly where we were at last year against Illinois. Offense, you want to end the game on your terms, controlling your own fate, controlling your own destiny. Defense, we're trying to get off the field and get the ball back to our offense. I think whenever you can point to a specific example, it carries more weight, especially when it was a situation (that) we weren't successful in.''

It doesn't guarantee success, but don't be surprised to see Penn State have a close game go its way if the situation comes up yet again.

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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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