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Penn State Football: Staying On Schedule Key For Struggling Offense

by on November 12, 2014 6:00 AM

Penn State's struggles when it comes to moving the ball down the field are fairly well documented at this point.

There are a lot of little things that play into these offensive struggles that are obvious. Dropped passes, bad passes and short runs.

But the biggest thing of all, getting behind schedule before the drive even starts.

False starts, illegal motion, illegal formation, illegal man downfield, there all kinds of penalties that can make a 1st-and-10 a 1st-and-15 or worse. It may only be an extra five yards, but for a team that struggles to get any yards on a consistent basis, penalties leave the offense in a much bigger hole.

"Obviously 1st and 10, 2nd and 6, 3rd and 2 is what you want," James Franklin said on Tuesday. "Now you get into a situation where you're 1st and 15 or 2nd and 12 or 2nd and 15 or 3rd and 10.  You know, there are a lot of offenses across the country that are going to struggle with that.  Whether it's jumping offsides or holding calls or whether it's inefficient runs or inefficient plays, sacks being a big factor for us this year as well."

Sacks? Oh yes, Christian Hackenberg has been taken down 35 times during Nittany Lion drives. Forget the yards you gained on first down, it could be all gone and then some if Hackenberg can't escape pressure. And just like that it's back to square one, only this time it's second down.

"All of those things set you off schedule and now you get into a situation where you're more likely to throw the ball," Franklin said. "Now you're getting in throwing sets and you're either max protecting and they can drop eight, or they're trying to pressure you and put you in even longer yardage situations. So I think sometimes you kind of hate this as fans and you hate this as coaches, but sometimes you merely just reserve the right to punt and reserve the right to add to the punt. So you may run the ball. It's 3rd and 12 and you run the ball and everybody boos. But you get six yards, and now you're able to pin them deep in the punt."

It might be a tough thing to admit, that Penn State's offense is playing the occasional third down just to punt from a better part of the field, but it's reality. Penn State doesn't have the weapons or pass protection to make big plays, so the offense plays the field position game to live another day and rely on the defense to make stops.

"I know that maybe isn't the sexy thing to do and the exciting thing to do, but in a lot of times, what we've been trying to do the last couple weeks is play great defense, find a way to make some plays on offense and special teams and play field position football. Now with our punting game coming on, I think we're going to be able to do that and allow our offense time to continue to build confidence."

It may not be sexy, but it's the smart play, and it only needs to work one more time for Penn State to go bowling.

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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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