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Penn State Football: Offense Finding Its Stride As Quarters Go Along

by on September 17, 2016 6:22 PM

Trace McSorley is getting the hang of this thing.

12 quarters into his career as Penn State's starting quarterback he has thrown for 828 yards completing 64-percent of his passes and has led a Nittany Lion offense to three straight games of 30 or more points. He hasn't been perfect, but it's becoming increasingly hard to find major faults with his play.

In many ways the same can be said about the offense around him, if anything it's getting even better than its quarterback.

"I feel like our offense has always been clicking very well, it just comes with execution," receiver DeAndre Thompkins said after Penn State's win over Temple on Saturday. "Little things here and there but for the most part the offense is clicking now, it's more efficient. We know to just play at full speed man."

And the numbers don't lie. In the first 5 and a half quarters of Penn State's season the offense accounted for 33 points and 449 yards. A game to knock off the rust and a first half against Pitt where the Nittany Lions took a few punches to the mouth and coughed up a few turnovers along the way.

But somewhere ate in the second quarter against Pitt things started to finally click. Penn State rattled off an 8-play 83-yard drive that pulled the Nittany Lions back into the thick of things, and suddenly the race was on.

From there it seems that aside from a few bumps here and there that Joe Moorhead's highly touted offense is finally finding itself. Including that drive and the next six quarters of play Penn State has racked up 66 points and 714 yards of offense and have looked impressive in the process.

"All of our expectations are very high for the offense, really my expectations are so high for the offense I don't know if they'll ever be reached," Thompkins added "But we're just raising the bar every day and getting closer and closer."

The question of course is if Penn State can continue its effective play during the Big Ten slate. The Nittany Lions are averaging 13.4 more points a game than the past two seasons under James Franklin but only 46 more yards of offense along the way. The Joe Moorhead impact seemingly putting a premium on making the most of the yardage gained, not simply putting together long drives that lead to fewer tangible results on the scoreboard.

As you might imagine, the Nittany Lions are optimistic, and perhaps rightfully so as the offense put together a four drive sequence of touchdown, redzone fumble, touchdown and touchdown. All without Barkley on the field, hardly a reasonable expectation the past few years, scoring without the star.

"I think that it's just going to continue to improve," tight end Mike Gesicki said Saturday. "That us playing the way that we did today, last week and the week before, I think the only people who are really stopping us are ourselves, negative plays and stuff like that. When we're moving and we're rolling we're really clicking on all cylinders and it's really fun to play and I'm excited for that to continue."

"It's all the little things, focus on the little things it's not anything crazy that anyone has to go be extraordinary, it's the little things. The footwork the hands inside, knowing your role and really executing it to 100-percent."

Realistically for Penn State to win more games this year it will take a total team effort. The Nittany Lions are as injured on the defensive side of the ball as you can get, and the result has been a porous unit that is preparing to face a handful of Top 15 teams in the coming weeks. Moorhead and Co might have the plays called, but that's only half the battle and this Penn State team doesn't seem to be quite where it needs to be to win 65-60 games week in and week out.

Nevertheless the foundation is there, and as Trace McSorely mentioned after the game, it's a foundation that is becoming more solid by the series, game and week.

"Coming into this season I knew it was going to be an explosive offense," McSorley said. "I knew that Coach Moorhead was a great coach he's really an offensive genius, the things that he'll say in the huddle. That's exactly how it'll play out. He'll say 'okay this is what is going to happen' and we'll get out and execute the play and that's exactly how it plays out. He's an offensive genius. I knew it was an explosive offense, I knew we were going to put points on the board, I knew we were going to be running plays against looks we wanted to run them against. I think just getting into the season after three games this whole offense has a great feel how games work. How when things aren't going your way how we need to respond, how when things are going our way how we need to keep the pedal on and keep our tempo going."

It also helps when your coach can see what happens before it does.

"One play that kind of stuck out was the fourth and long play against Pitt, he was like 'if that safety doesn't double Mike, DeAndre is going to be free wide open down the middle' all I had to do was go through the read and just execute and sure enough he was pretty wide open."

"It's definitely a huge confidence booster knowing you have Coach Moorhead behind you calling plays like that, he's calling games aggressively, he's calling games where we're throwing the ball deep, where we're taking what the defense gives you at the same time. It has been a great three games and I think there are only better things to come."

How much better remains to be seen, and it's almost certain that all of this progress will be tested next week on the road against a talented Michigan defense.

But if nothing else Penn State's offense looks and sounds confident, and it's showing on the field.



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